For one thing, the “other side” isn’t valid for every story. Sometimes the other side is nothing more than a lie.
Not long after my son died, I wrote a story about the number of people in North Carolina who were losing health insurance as they were laid off their jobs. It was pretty straightforward. Jobs were leaving the state at a record rate, and people were losing health coverage. The story was based on numbers supplied by Families USA, a national nonprofit that collects such data from every state.
The day the story ran, I got a call from the conservative “think” tank, the Heritage Foundation. The woman wanted to know if I would quote their expert in my next story about insurance. I asked for some information on her expert and she e-mailed a single quote from someone saying the free market should handle health care.
I told the woman that I doubted I would quote her expert, since the quote had nothing to back it up.
“Oh, I suppose you’re one of these people who believes people are dying left and right,” she said.
I told her I know first-hand that people are dying and unless she could back up her expert’s statement with some hard evidence, her expert was offering nothing more than an opinion.
Some people still believe the Earth is flat, I suppose, or that tobacco is perfectly safe or that mental illnesses are caused by demons. I wouldn’t quote them, either.
You can believe that the earth is just 6,000 years old, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, or that evolution is just a “theory,” not the truth, but I won’t support that being taught in science class, especially since there’s no science to back it up.
You can believe trickle-down economics works, but the evidence just doesn’t support it.
You can believe that cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans is the best way to create jobs, but the evidence of the last 30 years shows otherwise.
My failure to accept your “belief” as truth is not bias against you personally. If your belief is unsound it is my job as a journalist to challenge it. I’m not here to prop up your false assumptions; my job is to get at the truth.
People didn’t ride dinosaurs. The Earth is ancient. Global warming is real. People are dying from lack of health care. Children in this country are malnourished and the food supply is unsafe. The war in Iraq was contrived and illegal. We CAN afford to pay people a living wage and give them access to quality health care. The economy won’t tank if we regulate the banksters.
The problem with journalism now is that everyone is so afraid of being called biased that they’re only too happy to print the lies and not challenge the liars. And we as a nation are left to suffer the consequences of these lies.Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.