My heroes have always been journalists
Sunday in the Park
May 19, 2017
Here's the only thing I can think about this week: I am grateful to live in a country with a free press. I am grateful for brave journalists who pursue the truth for truth's sake. I am grateful the media has morphed, so even folks who don't buy and read physical newspapers much anymore have free access to publications with accurate stories.
For years I bad-mouthed Facebook and the people who spent any significant amounts of time on it. …Until, like so many things in life, I became one of them. I can pass by the cat videos — almost all of them. Ditto someone else's vacation/birthday/new couch. I do still stop for babies.
But give me a hot political story making the news cycles and I'm a goner.
To be alive at this point in history is to bear witness to the very state of our democracy wobbling. The scales of checks and balances tipping dramatically — daily. To witness a president so visibly unraveling as to be yanking on the threads of the drapes in the Oval Office as he falls.
I love my country. And like my children, my country doesn’t always do what I wish it would.
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And also to see at this very moment the pillars of our democracy strong enough to cast long, appropriate shadows over the chaos.
I love my country. And like my children, my country doesn't always do what I wish it would. Doesn't always behave in a polite and dignified manner. Doesn't remember always to look around and see who needs help. Forgets that bullying only makes sense to the bully. But mostly my kids and my country make me proud. So it has been a tough six months. And the kids are OK.
I wanted to believe, even though Donald Trump was not my candidate, that once he became my president he would surround himself with top people and grow into the job. I never expected to like him — there were too many roadblocks and personality ticks for that, but honestly I wanted to find my way to respect him for doing the hardest job on the planet.
I have a friend back East who works in circles doing research journalists often cite as background in their stories. He posted yesterday there are hundreds of FBI agents at the ready to arrest — in one swoop — those Trump associates who violated the laws of the land.
He also shared The Fall — as he sees it happening — will take down Pence and Ryan and leave in place Orrin Hatch as acting president. Ponder that for a moment.
My friend and I are betting others that Trump won't go through impeachment proceedings. He will resign first. It represents a kind of narcissistic power play, really. A kinda of "you can't fire me — I quit! " mentality.
I admit I am of an age when we really did pull news stories off the AP wire. They came in a teletype form to our office and we read them — had little time to absorb them — and added them to the mix of news that day/week.
We trusted the source of the news completely. The proliferation of news sources today come non-stop right to the palm of my hand, because every online news company has become, in essence, their own wire service.
Take VOX news for example, a news business that exists primarily online. A smart, young company gathering news and dissecting other people's stories to try to put context to the sea of steaming stories streaming. Just this week they published a fascinating piece on how the left and the right are consuming news and digesting the very same facts.
Vox: "Breitbart ran a piece during this news frenzy quoting conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who said on Newsmax TV that the media is the 'opposition party.' 'There is a cultural left and a political left and a media, if you will, [that] are a conglomerate,' he said. 'They were determined to break and bring down Nixon from the day he was nominated. …And the same forces, similar forces, are trying to break and bring down Trump.'" Vox continued, "There's been plenty of ink spilled about how 'fake news' is affecting current discourse, but something more disturbing is happening: We're experiencing different realities of the same event — and that reality is solidified every time these alternate storylines are repeated."
So while we have always known we bring our experiences and prejudices to every story in our lives it appears now, more than any time before, we are 'siloing' how we see and hear facts. And real facts are replaced with alternative ones.
While taking an early morning scroll this week, I came across — by luck of the feed — a live speech former National Security Advisor Susan Rice was giving to the Center for American Progress. It was refreshing to hear someone so eloquent and distinguished and who had served with distinction speak about the present state of affairs. She received a standing ovation from the room full of dignitaries and virtual one from me.
This week's issue of TIME magazine, which I still subscribe to in print form, has already debuted online. The cover has the multicolored Russian onion domes of bright colors covering the top of the White House with red paint creeping across its pillars. It is reportedly the first time in a decade a cover appears with no cover line. Inside is a thoughtful piece about what Russia has accomplished in tinkering in our election process:
"'…But much damage has already been done. The ultimate impact of [the 2016 Russian operation] is we're never going to look at another election without wondering, you know, is this happening, can we see it happening?' says Jigsaw’s Jared Cohen. By raising doubts about the validity of the 2016 vote and the vulnerability of future elections, Russia has achieved its most important objective: undermining the credibility of American democracy. For now, investigators have added the names of specific trolls and botnets to their wall charts in the offices of intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. They say the best way to compete with the Russian model is by having a better message. 'It requires critical thinkers and people who have a more powerful vision' than the cynical Russian view, says former NSA deputy Inglis. And what message is powerful enough to take on the firehose of falsehoods that Russia is deploying in targeted, effective ways across a range of new media? One good place to start: telling the truth."
Trying to make sense of our country in a time when little appears to make sense means we need to discern real news from alternative stuff. Which requires vigilance on our part. To consume news from trusted news sources. Every day, even a big fat New York Times Sunday edition-style Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.