I was somewhat shocked at the logic extolled by Walter Trkla that seemed to demand editors at The Daily News filter the news through some type of moral compass.
While Mr. Trkla appeared to base his logic on the requirement of reporting the news ethically, he missed the point that to do so would require journalists to pick and choose the news deemed to fit an arbitrary standard.
He argues that the extent of the coverage relating to the historical instances of previous tragedies as well as the emotional impact suffered by the families of victims, in itself contributes to future such tragedies.
Mr. Trkla cloaked his argument in the emotionally charged news from the massacre of school children in Newtown, Conn., and a column by Robert Koopmans as to how he should explain “Life, Death and Risks” to his 13-year-old daughter.
His argument contended that editors are not only the conduit but in many cases an accomplice to wars, crime and corruption in society. He lays the blame on mainstream media that “does not tell the truth about world events, national and provincial politics and community wellness is as guilty as the perpetrator.”
That seems to be a lot of responsibility to lay at the feet of editors at The Daily News and of course, their co-conspirators within the national and international media. The contention is that the identified mainstream media by collaborating on some scheme to relay the news somehow become accomplices.
My question is this: what is Mr. Trkla talking about and, more telling, what is he advocating?
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a former journalist. Many years ago I was a member of that denigrated conspiratorial group referred to by Mr. Trkla. I held a number of positions with a no-longer published daily newspaper in Kamloops, the last being as managing editor.
Throughout my career in journalism, there was one over-riding rule. Reporters, and by extension those who select the stories for publication, report on the news. Reporters and desk editors do not interpret the news.
That is for the editors, and in some cases reporters, to do in their columns and editorials, where the news is interpreted and elicits commentary. Such columns and editorials are clearly identified as opinion pieces, sometimes with the author identified and other times simply as the position of an editorial board.
The news that is selected is the news that is of most interest and impact. It cannot be filtered through some imposed ethical standard. It was that way back in the day when I was working in journalism and, thankfully, is that way today.
Mr. Trkla contends that by carrying stories on the details as well as the impact of the tragedy that unfolded in Newtown, in some manner The Daily News had somehow become “insensitive to your power to influence sorrow and rage.”
He further stated that The Daily News editors had lost their moral compass if Newtown does not make them sick of the gun lobby when they argue “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Again for the record, I agree what transpired in Newtown was a heart-rending tragedy and I am equally outraged by the ongoing militancy of the gun lobby in the U.S.
I believe most editorialists, including those at The Daily News, have over the years taken exception to the American gun lobby’s tactics and arguments. I also believe, as evidenced by Mr. Koopman’s thoughtful column, that everybody at The Daily News is equally shocked and saddened.
Mr. Trkla seems to feel that if newspapers somehow stopped reporting details of such tragedies as what happened at Newtown, those who hold opposing views to the possession of guns will go away.
They’ll take the absence of such stories to heart and put away their armaments.
I would suggest that Mr. Trkla, in advocating that journalists pick and choose the stories printed and then slant those that are, is misguided.
Mr. Trkla, in advocating that if journalists “are not willing to report ethically and tell the truth” that “legislation should be enacted to make them legally responsible for their words or lack of them” is dangerous.
I am as outraged as any as to what happened in Newtown, and continue to be as opposed to the arguments of the gun lobby as any.
In this I agree with Mr. Trkla.
But under no circumstances do I consider a media constrained by an imposed ‘ethical standard’ established by outside forces, especially by legislation, as the solution.
It has been said before, and is as true now as ever, that an informed society is the best defence of democracy.
That includes a defence against those who would constrain what the media is allowed to print in some delusional belief that if society is ignorant of the news all members of it will become caring, loving and peaceful.