What about the rest of us?

July 29, 2018

Martin Hackworth

One of the best features of “ridetirement” is the ability to spend as much time as I want each morning leisurely engaged with coffee and newspapers. It’s very important, after all, to be hydrated and well-informed before hitting the single track. Yeah, I know, taking one for the team and all that. Don’t be a hater.

Anyone who follows this column knows that I am not a fan of the “fake news” paradigm. Though I try as hard as I can to respect all of my friends’ points of view when it comes to anything that’s likely to create a schism in a friendship, even I have my standards. If you go off about fake news around me you are likely to get an earful. It’s second only to ALLCAPS in the hierarchy of items that lead me to suspect that you might need a tuneup.

Here’s the reality. In less than 15 minutes it is possible to get the lowdown on virtually any news event that you care to learn more about. Anyone with as much as a scintilla of discernment, with any honest sense of curiosity and even a modicum of ability to evaluate information can easily get a reasonably good picture of what’s going on. It’s just not that hard. And not liking what you find is not the same as it not being true. Unless, that is, you are handicapped by a set of BS goggles super-glued on your face.

As much as I’m a fan of news I don’t think that it’s perfect. There is a liberal bias in many mainstream news sources. I don’t think that this bias is as bad as my friends on the right go on about, but it’s definitely there. What’s far worse, at least in my opinion, is the bias toward sensationalism and, frankly, a great number of articles that are designed to foment emotion rather than thought.

Another problem in the mainstream media is it’s lack of diversity. There are certainly a lot of folks in both the print and broadcast mainstream media who don’t look like each other, but I’m not sure that completely articulates actual diversity. Diversity of thought is important as well. More of that might be useful.

A few days ago I read a story in the Washington Post about a father who considered himself a feminist, but a failed, cowardly inadequate feminist because he failed to forcibly prevent a three year old boy from attempting to hug his three-year old daughter on a playground. This was especially disappointing in light of the birth pact he’d made with her by reading feminist prose from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists.” the night she was born.

I have to admit that for the first time I felt a twinge of inadequacy as a father. My daughter was born to the strains of a rock band who’s singer once bit the head off of a bat in concert. I think that he even contracted rabies later on.

I would be willing to bet more than I can afford to lose that this article resonates with few beyond a fairly narrow audience. Also, and I offer this purely in the spirit of honestly wanting to console and help the author gain some useful perspective after such a calamity, I would not advise putting a hand on anyone else’s kid in a park anywhere between New York and Los Angeles - for any reason. Feminist might not be the lead in his epitaph.

This is where I think that mainstream news sources often fail. While their coverage of important issues is, albeit imperfect, usually OK, a lot of things beyond page one or the lead story are inane, frivolous, vapid and largely irrelevant content tailored to an audience that does not represent most of the country. What about the rest of us?

I don’t know about you but I was unmoved this morning when I read about “theybies” (Google it). I was more concerned that someone thought that “theybies” were worth a column in a major publication — something that calls into question whether those behind the curtain understand how most of the country thinks. I’d be smarter from having read about pork belly futures.

If the mainstream media wants to push back against “fake news” they have their work cut out for them. A good place to start might be having voices other than the usual suspects speaking to issues that are relevant to and resonate with those of us who live in the great dark area known as the USA between the coasts.

The Washington Post and the New York Times can hire columnists and feature writers from Kansas City as easily as they can from the Northeast corridor. And if they want to develop a better relationship with the rest of us, talking with us rather than at us wouldn’t be a mistake.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming, and riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.

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