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Words from Winterbilt

Donít trust the press?

Shannon Bohrer

(4/2016) How many times and how long have we heard from political candidates, disgruntled persons and or groups tell us that we cannot trust the press. It is understandable that individuals and groups would tell us not to trust the press, especially if the press is saying something the individuals and groups donít want you to hear. For sport, after political debates I go to my trusted news source, the internet, and read the fact check articles. Generally, the well-known fact check sites give factual data as to why someone told the truth, or did not. What is amazing to me is that so many things said in the political debates Ė are not true. I started this practice while watching a debate between two candidates. During the debate one candidate (VP-DC) made a claim and said the audience could go to factcheck.org and find out he was telling the truth. When I went to the website, I discovered he gave the wrong web site and when I found the real web site, they said he was being untruthful - more than he was truthful.

While the reputable web sites seem devoted to the real facts, there are some sites devoted to misrepresenting the facts. These web sites were created to explain why a political candidate said something that does not appear to be true, but is true in the context it was used. Well it could be true if the context existed! Some of the sites seem disguised Ė to appear to be a news site, when they are really an extension of oneís political entity. So when a political candidate says something that is not true, many times you can visit their news site and find out it could be or might be true in the future, at least in the context it was meant to be used.

So when a political candidate says you cannot trust the press, what they are saying is that you cannot trust the press of their political opponents, or the mainstream press, but you can trust them. Of course when they all say that then we have decisions to make. Which party or candidate(s) do we believe? The answer is obvious, we trust the press if they say nice things about the candidate we support. Therefore, thrusting the press is really dependent upon which candidate you support, if that makes sense.

While it is understandable that many people tell us not to trust the press, one might asked, where should be get our news? We all know that there are different news sources and many of them have a bias in one direction or another, which is nothing more than being human.

The first amendment to the constitution says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The first amendment has five freedoms that our founders believed to be very important. And over the history of our country the freedom of speech and the free press has been instrumental in our development and progress as a nation. Historically, the knowledge and information that we have had from the colonial days to the modern era, to make informed decisions has always come from a free press. At one time the free press was limited to newspapers, but today the press includes newspapers, radio, television and the internet. In fact there are news sites; including some internet pages, that seem devoted to justifying controversial issues and topics. Literally, you can find a justification for just about anything if you look long enough. There are sites justifying racial hatred and devil worship, attempting to have others drink the cool aide. While we have the right of free speech; there is nothing that says the speech needs to be truthful, and that seems to be a problem for many.

So it is easy to see why some people say you cannot trust the press, but then we come back to the question Ė where do we get our news and information? Well, we usually get our information from a free press. Where else would it come from, your local electrician, your barber, maybe from your friends at the coffee shop? Of importance, if we agree with the information in the news we believe it. But, if the information does not fit with our beliefs, then we disagree with it often labeling the information source as a biased media. So it is often our belief that we have that determines if we agree with the press.

"The free press is the mother of all of our liberties and our progress under liberty" - Adlai Stevenson

It has been said that we see or hear what we want to see or hear, which is often true. Not only do we see and hear what we want, we can disregard information that does not support our thoughts, and give extra weight to information that confirms what we think. Psychologists call this a bias conformation, meaning we filter the information we receive, giving more weight to information that confirms our beliefs and ignoring information that does not fit with our beliefs. Sometimes, when someone asked a question, they donít want your opinion; they want you to confirm their position.

In our political climate we have very strong beliefs on numerous sides, so it should not surprise anyone when they hear a news story that either fits their thoughts, or conflicts with them. But, just because a news account does not conform to ones beliefs does not mean itís not true. If one of the candidates for president walked across the Potomac River the opposition side would say that person cannot swim.

So when the "Main Stream" media is accused of having an agenda, it could be true. The agenda may lean right or left, but that does not mean itís not true. So when candidates tell you that you cannot trust press, it could be logical if you support that candidate. But in the larger arena, not trusting the press is just not logical. It implies that one gets their news from the stranger on the street corner, or worse, from the politicians.

"The only security of all is in a free press." - Thomas Jefferson

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer