When I was a few decades younger I loved MAD Magazine. Mostly because the editors weren't pretending to inform or enlighten.
American cartoonist, editor, and educator Art Spiegelman summed it up best when he said, “MAD was, ‘The entire adult world is lying to you, and we are part of the adult world. Good luck to you.’”
MAD made me laugh. But believing what appeared in MAD was like believing the claim of a tobacco company whose 1950s ads claimed its cigarettes were “soothing for your throat.”
MAD was intended to be loose and misleading. Right now, it’s easy to feel the same way about the so-called “major news media.”
A few days ago, a headline in a “news” tabloid with a circulation in the millions screamed: “Asteroids could be approaching Earth undetected as NASA scientists find a danger zone that allows space rocks to 'sneak up' on telescopes because of a quirk of the planet's daily rotation.”
I’m betting that item alone caused a rush on toilet paper.
And it’s totally bogus. The headline says “Asteroids could be approaching.” Could be? That means it’s not a fact. It’s pure speculation.
The headline of a January 17 story from Reuters news service hollered: “Tonga’s massive underwater volcanic eruption could deliver long-lasting damage to coral reefs, erode coastlines and disrupt fisheries.”
The article predictably added that the eruption would “harm the environment for years.”
As volcanic eruptions have been doing since Mother Earth was in diapers.
I read the story twice. It was accurate but one item of interest was missing. The next day, Reuters added it at the end of a small headline that said, “All homes on one of Tonga's islands destroyed, three dead.”
Three dead. It was heartwarming to see that people count almost as much as acts of nature when the emphasis is on grabbing eyeballs instead of delivering facts.
And at least no one claimed the eruption was caused by fossil fuels.
Why is it so hard to find a straight piece of news today? I may be in the minority but I’m happy when a “news” story gives me the who, what when, where, and if verified, the why?
The top goal of major media outlets is getting eyeballs. Not reporting facts. They are often labeled as “right-leaning” or “left-leaning.” I have yet to see one labeled “Always Truthful.”
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit the only place you’ll find news you can actually trust, delivered without an ounce of non-labeled bias, is in local, independent hometown papers.
Local newspaper articles are reported by people you know or recognize. You see them out and about every day on the street, in local restaurants, in your church, at the bowling alley, or your kids’ ball games.
Small, local, independent papers keep things sane and honest. The owners know they can’t lie about what goes on locally. You can see the truth in front of your eyes every day.
Small, local papers aren’t perfect. Thank goodness. If I want perfect I’ll subscribe to “Guideposts.”
The folks that run your independent local paper aren’t perfect, either. But they are always available. If you don’t like what they print, you can always head over for a chat with the reporters—or even the owners.
You may not change their mind, but you’ll have your say.
These days, that’s gold.
Alex McRae is a writer and ghostwriter. His debut novel, Rough Draft, is coming soon. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org