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

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


RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 1/22/2006

By RICHARD AMRHINE

continued

If there were nothing at all positive going on in Iraq, George Bush would have been recalled by now, and we'd have faced a constitutional crisis. As it is he is simply being criticized for poor decision-making and strategizing in a war he initiated. He is still running the country, albeit into the ground.

Cheerleaders we are not. We are part of the system of checks and balances, and that's especially true and necessary when the executive, legislative and, increasingly, the judicial branches of government are all tilted in the same direction.

We even choose to criticize ourselves, though some would say we do a woefully inadequate job of that. Such criticism usually is left to second guessing: Those journalists and newspapers that reported the 12 remaining trapped West Virginia coal miners to be alive should have double-checked their facts first. Or they should have at least made it clear who the sources were for that information.

Such mistakes can be likened to those of a football linebacker, trained to be aggressive and unrelenting, who occasionally gets flagged for a late hit. There's no excuse for that, but hopefully he'll learn from that mistake and be more careful in the future.

We strive to get the facts straight and report stories objectively. Journalism professors like to remind their students that the media can't unring the bell, so we ought to be sure of our facts before we tell the world.

When readers think we've done an unsatisfactory job, which is their prerogative, they need to say so. Readers of The Free Lance-Star seem more aware of that, per capita, than those of the other newspapers I've worked for. That makes for a livelier editorial page and a more vital newspaper.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe."

I don't have to point out that he also said, "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." But I figure you'd want to know both sides of the story.

Even TJ saw the importance of playing the devil's advocate. There must have been a critical story in the paper that day.

RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.


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