So, how much responsibility does the press hold for keeping civility alive?
Does having a free press – which is a cornerstone of American greatness – include a “no holds barred” approach to news reporting, printing/airing pretty much anything? Or with great power, does great responsibility as well reside?
Take “reverend” whathisname who got the press in his pocket with his threat to burn the Koran. The question afterward – How far would that situation have gotten if the press chose to ignore him? – was asked indignantly but never answered. It’s well known that more stories are not reported than those that are, so we turn to the criteria for choosing one situation/comment/behavior, over another, thus considering it more “newsworthy”…
We’ve also known… for decades… of the ever-increasing needs of a starved 24/7 media system more intent on trumping the competition for 60 seconds than it is on the nation’s greater good…which both sides of the media aisle (“liberal” or “conservative”) claim as their motivation.
So: Is it the media’s responsibility to opt to report only the less inflammatory items in the best interest of improved national discourse aka not stoking crazy people, or is it our responsibility as media consumers to refuse to support such presentations by tuning out rather than droolingly tuning in when they go for the jugular to get better ratings?
They claim to be simply providing what the public wants; the public decries violent rhetoric that almost killed a Congresswoman yet continues to seek out blood in the water; Congress responds by considering a movement back about 150 years to the Wild West & takes a 2 minute break from name-calling; no one shows a modicum of true determination to end their part in this vicious cycle.
Here’s the real and most important question: If the media were to take their responsibility far more seriously, eg take the higher and more journalistically pure road, refusing to report nonsense as “newsworthy” or vitriol as verity, would it help make us a tad more “civil”? Follow-up questions: would that be the end to the 24/7 news cycle, and the closing of more newspapers? Is it a worthy price to pay for a nation ever more torn by extreme, and therefore extremely easily stoked, anger and personal dissatisfaction?
Once you’ve answered for yourself, we’ll have ourselves a start down the road of either less, or more, civil discourse.