First…or Right?

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster

I’m a bit concerned with all these options we have for communicating.

It seems with more choices, some have failed to develop a propensity for doing their “due diligence” when it comes to thoughts and opinions.

It bothers me that just because we can communicate instantly, we often do that without much thought or consideration.

“In the heat of the moment” is not always the best time to air those perspectives.

Like fine wine, the “aging” process often enhances the true bouquet of the drink.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote a scathing letter to his top Union general.

The 16th President thought this Army officer had squandered a chance to end the Civil War.

Now today, with just a click, the letter could have been in the general’s E-mail box or the breaking news story on any number of network newscasts.

At the very least, it might show up as a text on his cell phone.

But, President Lincoln did something in the “heat of the moment” few of us do today.

He folded that scathing letter up and tucked it away in his desk.

He went one step further.

He never sent it.

The President understood that the first action which comes to mind is often counterproductive.

Therein lies the problem with “immediate access”.

I think this “lack of time” our society affords us to consider things has gotten muddled with the quest to be first.

I am frustrated when news entities scream “breaking news” to the point that I often just ignore the message.

It’s often not even newsworthy.

As I’ve said many times, 24 hour news outlets have diminished the news product severely.

The demand for news around the clock has forced much information into the spotlight, long before it’s had any opportunity to “percolate”.

Many have confused “different information” with “news”.

Broadcasters seem compelled to offer something “fresh” even if its’ newsworthiness might be questionable, at best.

So, do we need to “censor” news?

Of course not.

But you and I need to be more discerning before we respond or react.

We need to “censor” our desire to “fly-off the handle, half-cocked.”

The publishers and broadcasters are not going to do this if they feel that what they’re providing is what we really want.

It’s my opinion that this “red” and “blue” divide in our country can be tied directly to the “Fire! Aim! Ready!” mentality that’s developed.

Didn’t it used to be “Ready! Aim! Fire!”?

But now, not-very well-thought-out opinions get splashed before us before any consideration has been given to the possible impact or ramifications of spewing half-baked opinions.

Nobody writes down their thoughts and puts them in the desk today.

We just click Send” and it’s spread everywhere like skunk spray in the backyard.

When I first ventured into the world of reporting, the old standard was to have two, sperate, verifiable resources before a story “hit the airwaves”.

Was that always followed?

No.

If a fireman told you a house caught fire and three people had to be evacuated, you could “run” with that.

But if part of the info was “I think it was intentionally set by the family dog”, you’d need to dig a little deeper before going past the basic story on-air.

As a reporter, you always hoped for those exclusives, or “scoops” as we used to call them.

But today, I feel a lot of the “scoops” are half-baked or delivered with an ulterior motive.

Today, most “scoops” are what we use to clean up after the dog in the yard.

The old joke goes, “How do you tell when a politician is lying?”

“His lips are moving.”

Funny, yes but in this sharply divided “red and blue” nation of ours, it’s going to take some time for us to rectify that.

We should also study the difference between “hearing” and “listening”.

“Hearing” is “the faculty of perceiving sounds; the act or power of taking in sound through the ear.”

“Listening” is “taking notice of and acting on what someone says; the active process of receiving and responding to spoken messages.”

Hearing infers nothing regarding understanding or comprehension.

Our ears should be better connected to our stomachs.

I think we’d all benefit from “chewing on things we hear” and giving them “time to digest.”

So, how to I wrap up?

Well, I think “different” isn’t always “news” and “first” isn’t as important as “right”.

American satirist Mark Twain told us, “If you don’t read newspapers, you are uninformed. If you do read them, you are misinformed.”

But Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous that ignorance.”

Caveat emptor.

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