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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Lying in wait

Readers can figure it out December 13, 2020 at 9:08 a.m.

Each morning NPR does a five-minute news podcast, as do Fox News and other news organizations. Last week, while listening to NPR, we heard this:

"President Trump continues to lie, saying he won the election, and that fraud was rampant . . ."

President Trump certainly wouldn't be the first president to lie to the American people. And he probably won't be the last. But he probably is the first American president to be called a liar by so many large mainstream news organizations in their news accounts.

Not just National Public Radio, either. The New York Times uses the word "lie" and "liar" referring to Trump in its headlines. When the newspaper of record does this, it is cheered by all those who despise Donald Trump. And the divide among Americans gets even deeper.

For years, even decades, actually most of the 20th century, the press did not call the president of United States a liar. That wasn't necessary, because when officials were lying, the press could present contradictory facts and information which was more believable.

That let the readers, listeners, and viewers decide for themselves. But today many in the press don't trust their readers, listeners, and viewers to come to their own conclusions. They believe they must tell the mass audience if someone with political power is lying. What these journalists seem oblivious to is that this can be an insult to their audiences, implying the mere reader isn't smart enough to determine the truth for himself.

Before our friends at NPR and other large news organizations get too enamored of the idea that they can tell readers and listeners what they should and should not believe, our betters might want to check a survey of 20,000 Americans released earlier this year by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.

They asked them for their opinion on how well the press can be trusted. The lack of trust in news reporting in America is at a new low, and is both disturbing and sobering.

Journalism should not be about taking sides. It should be about objectively, impartially and fairly reporting news. Even if reporters think something coming from a spokesman or politician is a lie, they need to report what the person says, then provide factual information to let the reader decide what's true.

But whether it's President Trump, the pandemic, the protests, or generally the year of our discontent, too many in the press are deviating from traditional journalistic standards. In a single recent wire service article, one of our editors at one of our other newspapers had to remove all of these words and phrases to provide an objective news story:

futile attempt

baseless doubts

falsely asserting

conspiratorial and debunked theories

baseless accusations

false claims (2x)

We know bias when we see it. Our readers do, too. Because our wire editors sort through such an overwhelming volume of copy every day from the AP, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Bloomberg wire services, some of it slips through and into our newspaper, regrettably.

Our newsroom believes if they can give you enough information, you can decide who is being honest and who isn't. We trust our readers. We wish NPR similarly trusted its listeners. We think that podcast tells its listeners more about NPR than it does about Donald Trump.


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