I wrote one of my first columns in 1978. That’s 42 years ago and wow, how things have changed.
I always age myself when I tell folks my first job at the newspaper in my hometown included me writing my stories on a typewriter. That’s right, a typewriter.
There weren’t the computers and the nice little gadgets we have now. We were using our typewriters and all the news we got came over what I called the “ticker-tape” machine. When you took a picture you had to develop your own film and then make your own prints. When you wrote a story, you actually had to do research and then make sure all your facts were correct.
Not saying I didn’t make mistakes. I certainly did. I once had held a front page when I was an editor waiting for a night-time shuttle launch. The deadline kept creeping closer and the shuttle stayed put on the launch pad. I heard someone mention there was no way they will launch at such a late hour. I made my decision based on that and we had a front page that said “NO GO!” As the papers hit the newsstands, the shuttle glowed brilliantly in the night as it lifted off. I let a rumor influence me.
I heard an earful the next day from my Managing Editor. It was a learning lesson for sure, and one I wish we had in place today more often for some of our media brothers and sisters. It seems we have completely thrown facts and relevant news out the window in order to be the loudest or worse yet, the first.
My wife and I have a constant battle during the nightly national news when I hear a certain story being told by one of the alphabet networks, change channels and the other alphabet network is doing the same story from a completely different perspective.
“How is that?” she asks, knowing full well what the answer is.
“It depends on the agenda of the network,” I answer as calmly as possible, but she knows it makes my blood boil. “Everyone has the right to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.”
I mention my humble beginnings in the news business because we seem to be inundated with the agendas of networks, certainly of political parties and almost even more so on some of the social media platforms. We don’t take the time for the facts, but rather, we listen to what other people want us to hear. If it benefits someone, you can be sure it’s going to be placed in front of you to be consumed.
Our kids range in age from home owners to college students. Our discussions can cover a wide variety of topics. One son is convinced the government could have prevented everything we are going through right now and blames a certain political party. I asked where he gets his facts and he said, and I quote, “It’s all on Facebook.”
We continued the discussion and I constantly countered with real sources and expert opinions from the CDC or the World Health Organization. “You always do that,” he said.
“Better that than getting my information from Fan-Boy1177 on Facebook,” I offered. “I’m sure he took his break from playing video games long enough to crank out some pertinent breaking news.”
My son laughed, but we came to the conclusion that if folks will listen to the experts, not just absorb agendas, stay abreast of the actual news, we will move through this uncertain time in a calm fashion. We have tons of work left in front of us, but I think we can achieve our goals of getting back to “normal” quicker if we do that.
If you see me, say “Hey!”
Dee McLelland is the Publisher of the Coastal Courier and the Bryan County News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 876-0156.