“ And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

John 8:32

IS THE NATIONAL PRESS POLARIZING AMERICA?

In a recent radio interview, I was asked, “Is the press polarizing America?” A quick and simple answer could be yes! It would be fashionable answer to state and easily supported by antidotal evidence. But the answer is much more complicated than a simple yes. The question gets to why do we have press and news outlets and how unbiased should they be. As well as, is our national press motivated by headlines that support their ratings?

I know some people who only listen to Fox news and others who only listen to CNN. What is remarkable is that they arrive at different conclusions on events of the day. Some will say that immigration is bad and others will say immigration is good. The real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

“Freedom of the press, no matter where they stand is a cornerstone of any society that wants to be free.”

While both sides will make the claim that the media and national press is the root of our problems, it is a dangerous observation. Freedom of the press, no matter where they stand is a cornerstone of any society that wants to be free. In America, our forefathers felt so strongly about having  freedom of the press, they included it in the 1st amendment of the constitution.

“Societal movements on the paths to freedom would become stifled.”

Washington, Adams and Jefferson knew the downfall of any society that doesn’t have a free press. Without it, the powers to be could and would control what we hear. Societal movements on the paths to freedom would become stifled. Wrongs would be ignored, leaving those oppressed or victimized without a voice.

Any society that wants to be free needs the press. In the vast majority of my own radio interviews I never feel pressured to give a differing view than what I believe. Generally, those that conduct these interviews are similar to many of my neighbors, fair and even handed. However, I do hear a voice of frustration within the media and my neighbors that their country has become so polarized, civility in our discourse is now impossible.

“Part of the freedom of the press lies within each of us as to how we take in information.”

We as a society have to become better in interpreting what we hear and what we see. I had a wonderful theological professor, early in my studies at theological school, that cautioned each of us to know the agenda of what we were reading. To know the author’s point of view and then shape our understanding around this knowledge. In other words, give respect to what we were reading, but be careful with how we act and think about what we have read or heard. This process, all of us heard over and over, was to read and understand with a thoughtful perspective. Part of the freedom of the press lies within each of us as to how we take in information.

Critical thinking is a hallmark of the freedom of the press. Being able to decipher what we hear and what we read is part of freedom of the press. Assuming that those we follow or read or hear have a monopoly of the truth is dangerous. No one person or article can ever reveal the whole truth, because no one person has all the facts. We all approach each issue of the day different than our neighbors. Like snowflakes, we are all different. Each article we read is bent to our perspective and the author’s. But other perspectives have different influences.

“Without freedom of the press we will quickly fall into despotism.”

As a society that needs to have freedom of the press, we also need to respect what the function of the press is, to give us news about our lifestyles, major events and significant political trends. Without freedom of the press we will quickly fall into despotism.

“Journalism in itself is a mighty weapon that can do both harm and good.”

The press as well should honor their position created by the 1st amendment. A journalistic requirement of reducing their own agenda in what they report and to focus on obtaining the whole truth. This is often met with the temptation of producing the salacious, which in turn produces revenue and wealth. Journalism in itself is a mighty weapon that can do both harm and good. For the many I meet in the media, I see and feel this desire to get at the truth. Many truly believe what they write or say, but a few do not hold this central aspect of our freedoms with the same regard. Unfortunately we hear the latter views too often.

“Our press needs to constantly prowl through the corridors of their mind and publish that which is truthful and sanitized of agenda.”

I understand why so many are saddened by the polarization that has occurred. But it’s not the 1st amendment that is at fault. It lies within our own personal respect to how we hear and how we write. We need freedom of the press to protect all of our other freedoms. But we as listeners, need to be more critical with our thinking in what we hear and see. Not just accept, but go deeper in our evaluation. Our press needs to constantly prowl through the corridors of their mind and publish that which is truthful and sanitized of agenda.

The Gospel of John is correct in saying, “and the truth will make you free.” But ours is to decide what the truth is in an unbiased way and to write what the truth is in an unbiased way. Without this we threaten all our freedoms.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by G. Crescoli

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