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Guess what? Good mothers and blue-ribbon apple pie aren't news

The media are often criticized for being so skeptical, so don't be surprised if we're skeptical of such criticism.

  Richard Amrhine's archive
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Date published: 1/22/2006


AMONG THE LESSONS I've learned during my 30 news- -and opinion-saturated years is one that stands above the rest: Be skeptical.

That is how journalists think. They are skeptical of everything and everyone. Those who aren't should seek a new line of work. We question both the things people already hate, and the things they hold dear. So as far as most people are concerned, our work is justified no more than half the time.

Our proclivity for skepticism--and criticism--is why many people have no use for us. If we do see something worthy of praise, those who disagree must have some questionable ulterior motive.

Even if everyone agrees that grass is green, a good journalist will seek out a minority point of view, such as the opinion of someone who is colorblind. Assigned a story on motherhood and apple pie, we will instinctively seek information about neglectful mothers and tainted apple pie. That's just the way it is. Good mothers and blue-ribbon apple pie aren't news. It is the exceptions to the rule that are news.

Since there is nothing that can't be questioned, then there is nothing beyond reproach. If there is nothing beyond reproach, then there is nothing, certainly of an earthly nature, worthy of worship.

This does not apply to my wife, or to Bruce Springsteen.

But it does apply to most other humans, particularly those who become well-known. They are automatic targets of skepticism--and probably criticism--because they have chosen to take a stand in the public forum.

As I was growing up, my parents were Time magazine subscribers. I was 13 in 1966 when the cover carried three words in red on a stark black background: "Is God Dead?" It may have been 40 years ago, but it left an impression. I recall the controversy that ensued, and, as the future president of my church youth group, I wondered where a news magazine gets off posing such a question.

Today I look at it two ways: First, if it was a question people were pondering at the time, in an era of the Beatles, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the Great Society, then why not ask it?

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