To the Editor:
Regarding a recent trend I’ve noticed in the Times:
Not too long ago, I watched (for the umpteenth time) “All The President’s Men.” Woodward and Bernstein chasing their story. Ben Bradlee refusing to publish. “You don’t have it,” he would say, crossing out ’graphs, or refusing to run it. “It’s incomplete, unverified; less fact and more rumor.” But he never said “Stop,” or “Give it up,” or “Quit.”
Bradlee knew that chasing a lead, a story, is commendable, and that incomplete news, gossip, or (worse yet) opinion, isn’t news, it’s yellow journalism — fodder best relegated to the tabloids.
In the short span of my adult lifetime, we have become divisive beings, uncompromising, judgmental, and belligerent. Dismissive attitudes prevail across the spectrum. We are creatures that feed on ready-made “facts” — at least all the facts that we are willing to hear and accept. We rough beasts adjudicate on headline information, and rely on soundbites to justify death sentences.
I encourage the publishers of the MV Times not to feed the animals:
- Passionately pursue your stories, but be dispassionate in your reporting.
- Seriously consider — and continuously question — your point of view of your subject.
- Strive for a balanced presentation of verified facts, and settle for nothing less.
- Stop using “eye-catching” headlines that exaggerate facts or mislead readers (a.k.a. “click-bait”).
- Don’t spoon-feed conclusions to your readers, but encourage personal deliberation — require them to consider the facts for themselves.
- Ban the phrase “more on this story as it develops” from the pages of your paper.
- File when you have the COMPLETE story, and not a moment sooner. Being first at any cost should not be goal.
- Eschew editorialization and opinion in hard-news stories — leave your opinions on the opinion page, where they belong.
- And continuously ask yourself: Why are we pursuing this story? And what impact will this have on individuals, families, neighborhoods, and the community at large?