Driving 65 mph on a 60 mph four-lane divided highway the other day, a SUV zoomed by me in the passing lane as if I was standing still.
That’s not unusual, unfortunately. But for once, I saw justice. Five minutes later, there the SUV was, parked on the side of the road with a police car, lights flashing, behind it. I twiddled on by, saying a silent prayer of thanks for the officer doing his job.
I think outside the box. I know what the rules are, and how to break them. I also know when not to break them.
Such as speeding 20 mph over the posted limit. That’s putting his life in danger, and mine.
So, what rules do I break?
As a driver, I frequently roll through stop signs. I’m constantly checking traffic in all directions and obviously if the coast is not clear, I stop. But if no one else is around, why waste gasoline by stopping? I slow down, but I roll through.
My wife doesn’t like that. I frequently do it anyway.
As a journalist, I fudged deadlines. If a reporter was cranking out a crime story as deadline was approaching, I waited, my heart often pounding but silently. Or, just as often, the reporter turned the story in on time, then came to me as I was finishing laying out the page and said he had an update – perhaps a crime suspect was just arrested.
Write fast, I said. My fingers fly on the computer keyboard when they need to. I’d get the updated story in the paper, with a new headline if necessary.
Every so often my boss lectured me about missing the deadline. I never apologized because I knew there was a fudge factor in there. The pressroom liked to have that flex time, but occasionally I tapped into it.
My job was to get the latest news into the paper, whatever it took. This was pre-Internet days, when newspapers were the primary source of community information.
As a copy editor, I became an “expert” on a variety of subjects. We had to communicate knowledgeably and in everyday language about taxes, school budgets, road construction, why companies hired or fired people, politics at all levels, and every other issue that came up.
If a reporter wrote a story that I didn’t understand, I assumed our readers wouldn’t either, and I would either re-write the story in clearer language or ask the reporter for clarification. This was my job.
I’m not a college professor, researching one topic for years. I learn about new topics nearly every day. I can research a subject for a couple of hours and write knowledgeably about it.
As a journalist, I never claimed to write the final word on any subject. No newspaper writer or editor does. The purpose of the newspaper was – and still is (or should be) – to get people talking. Not to provide all the answers, or even the “right” answer. To get you to think about an issue, and maybe do something about it.
I’ve tried to write this blog that way. When I express a viewpoint, I never claim to have the final word. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. Let’s talk about it. Respectfully. With dignity.
That’s what America has lost with the decline of newspapers and the rise of social media. Respect and dignity.
United Airlines is taking it on the chin and many other places over the forced removal of a passenger from a flight on Sunday. But the only person who actually broke any laws in that unfortunate scenario was the bloodied passenger.
You’d never know that by reading social media.
For the other side of the story, from a pilot’s wife:
Read it before you comment on any story regarding that incident.
Journalists understand that there’s more than one side to every story. Our editor in Saginaw, Mich., would ask for another viewpoint in just about every story we wrote. He drove us crazy. When will he ever be satisfied with a story? He rarely was.
We grumbled behind his back all the time, but because he drove us so hard, we were good. Very good. The public did use our articles as talking points. Community leaders were held accountable.
I came across the following sentiment recently:
“I’ve said this a million times before … I’ll say it a million times again before I die and I’ll be right every time.”
~ a Facebook friend
A journalist would never say this. Neither will I.
People say and do things for a reason, even things you or I don’t agree with. Get inside their skin and ask why.
Like nearly all journalists, I’m skeptical about a lot of things. I ask a lot of questions. With an open mind.
Sure, I have a bias. Everyone does. I see life through a certain lens; perhaps you see life through a different lens. That’s fine. We’re different. Not better or worse, just different. We can complement each other, if we both want that.
Here’s another sentiment I found not too long ago:
“Humility is terribly elusive, because if focused on too much it will turn into pride, its very opposite. Humility is a virtue to be highly sought but never claimed, because once claimed it is forfeited.”
~ John MacArthur
Because journalists are constantly learning, asking questions, seeking answers, we have a humility that we never talk about.
Thanks for listening. I look forward to hearing from you, today and in the future.
I have social media friends who are politically left and others on the right, and everywhere in between. I like that. Sometimes, you make me uncomfortable. That’s a good thing. I’ll challenge your position, and you have the right to challenge mine.
But again, let’s do it with respect. Argue my viewpoint, not my right to have that viewpoint. Stick to the issue. Don’t make it personal.
There are at least two sides to every story. No exceptions.
That’s how we separate “fake news” from what’s real. By talking it out.
We might actually teach each other something.