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Opinions, news aren't good friends

Earlier this week, Cal Thomas wrote an excellent piece on why the FCC shouldn't be telling us what to watch on television. The column itself is not what I took issue with because I happen to agree with it.

What I have a problem with is Thomas' choice of words when talking about how the news is disseminated to the public.

In discussing the cons of being able to pick and choose which channels come into your home, Thomas wrote:

"The a la carte approach is the worst of all worlds. Fox News could not have been launched in an a la carte environment, which might be good news for liberals but bad news for those who wish to have another perspective on the news than what they got before Fox News was born a decade ago."

The key word here is perspective. You're reading this on the Daily Post's Perspective page. Call it op-ed. Call it the editorial page. Call it whatever you want, but it's the place for people like Thomas and me to rant about the news. It's where we offer our opinion.

I do not want a perspective given to me when news is reported on television or anywhere else. I don't want Fox's Neil Cavuto telling me what he thinks when reporting on the stock market anymore than I want Wolf Blitzer to give his opinion of President Bush when reporting from the White House for CNN.

I want the facts. Just the facts. I don't need anyone telling me what I need to think about a news story when they're reporting supposedly hard news.

Want to get on this page and tell me what you think about immigration or Iraq? Fine. Want to do an editorial on camera and label it as such like the networks used to do? Great. But when you're just telling me what happened, you should keep your opinion to yourself.

But that is almost nonexistent in television news and it is rapidly disappearing from most forms of media. Just mention a media outlet and most people will immediately tell you which way it leans, and not just on the editorial board. Fox? Conservative. CNN? Liberal. New York Times? Liberal. Washington Times? Conservative. Washington Post? Liberal. The list goes on without end, but it shouldn't.

Of course, nowadays you have to add the Internet and blogs into the mix. Getting your hard news off a blog is akin to asking Smokey Bear what he thinks about forest fires.

The truth is a lot of journalists learn all about ethics, being fair, covering every angle and all that in J-school, and then when they get in the work force they forget it. I'll never forget this phrase one of my professors used: Journalists shine a light in dark corners. We offer up the facts, and the people make up their own minds.

That should be the end of it. Report the news and let the people decide. It's even Fox's catchphrase: We report, you decide.

But they've already decided for us. Too many journalists pick and choose what they shine the light on.

With Fox, Bush is right. The Iraq war is going better. The Democrats are stupid.

CNN does the same thing. Bush is wrong. Iraq couldn't be worse. Republicans are stupid.

And no, they don't use those exact words, which would actually be better, because at least they would be wearing their bias on their sleeves. The problem is it's subtle. It's word choice. It's picture choice. It's story choice.

The world needs more journalists, TV and otherwise, who can cut through the baloney and give us the real story and fewer who subtly tell us this is good or that is bad.

Journalists don't have to be middle-of-the-road in their lives, but they should be in their coverage of the news. Should they go as far as Jim Lehrer and not vote so as to not reveal to the public which way they lean? I don't know. But they ought to do more to give us just the facts.

Running afoul of an old phrase, hard news and perspective should never be on the same page.

But then that's just one man's perspective.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.

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