Fact or Fiction

  • By: Al Smith, President and CEO

As the sun comes up each morning, I, like so many others, drag out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, grab my I-Phone and hit the “mail” button.  Then I watch the e-mails from overnight download – first 5, then 8, 13, 20, 27 – the numbers keep climbing. And the day hasn’t even begun.

This e-mail thing was supposed to be such a great asset, but more and more it’s becoming a pain in my….neck. 

As all of these messages continue to come in, there are some that concern my business and personal interests. However, it is also flooded with spam and more and more political assertions.  Cartoons or commentaries blast through my computer screen proclaiming “the Republican nominee didn’t pay income taxes”, or “the Democratic President sent his daughter and her friends to Mexico for a spring break that cost the taxpayers millions and the main stream media covered it up.”

Since everyone has access to the internet and more are creating their own blogs, anyone can make a political claim and then easily circulate it to the masses.  But how do we know which ones are true and which ones are created under the guise of deceitful politics?

Technology today is making it harder to ascertain what the truth is in government.   Who is the fact checker?  Which one is credible?

I use to hate the newspaper.  Of course, I was a broadcaster for 47 years and the “daily” was our biggest competitor.  I resented that the Bee publisher’s offices were in a palatial palace with hundreds of reporters, salespeople, printers, delivery people scattered across the community landscape, while those of us who operated radio stations, as creative as we were, many times operated out of double-wide house trailers. (OK, I did that only once). Yet both of us communicated to a comparable amount of readers and listeners. . 

I remember after retiring from radio and suddenly thrust into the Chamber of Commerce that I was almost forced (I almost gagged) to support media at all levels, including – God forbid – “the newspaper.” Me?  Bitter?

There were those who complained about the newspaper’s alleged bias, their editorials, their coverage of negative aspects of the community. My complaint? They took four times the advertising dollars that radio attracted.

As a competitor, I would have loved to see them disappear.  I would have then, but as we continue to be bombarded with unverifiable information I realized more and more the importance the newspaper plays in our community.  The broadcast secret is that many radio and television news stories begin with a newspaper column. Not all, but many.

The press; “the Fourth Estate” as Edmund Burke labeled them in 1787 was “far more important than they all” when compared to the three branches of British government. It is the Fourth Estate that oversees the machinations of government. They search for transparency; they seek out corruption; they shine the light on politicians. 

On a national level, there is an abundance of credible news organizations to maintain this oversight, but who has the depth to do this critically important job on the local level?  No entity that I know of – no broadcaster, no Chamber, no Grand Jury.  None has the magnitude to put forth enough of the inquiring minds necessary to seek out questionable government actions.

As these political e-mails continue to clog my in-box, I find myself searching more and more for the source of these accusations and whether they’re credible.

As citizens, we have a vital interest locally in having the ability to maintain a spotlight on City Hall, the Supervisors, government practices and bureaucratic entities and right now, it seems to me the only one large enough to do that is your local newspaper.  If you can think of another, let me know.

Smith talking nice about the newspaper?  Guglielmo Marconi and Thomas Edison must have just rolled over in their graves.


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