Steve Lunetta: Digital freedom of the press

By Steve Lunetta

Last update: Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

After a previous “Right About Now” column about liberal overreaction to president-elect Trump, I began to think more about the dissemination of news and information with regards to politics. Without a doubt, it is having a significant impact on all of us.

First of all, let me declare that I am rabid about freedom of the press. This is a cherished and hallowed belief that every American school child learns at an early age.

It is the best way for truth to be discovered and communicated.

But there is also a very dark side to this freedom, since it leaves us open to abuses by unscrupulous people. Those who wish to manipulate us for financial or political gain can do so quite easily.

This has become more acute recently, since many in the press rush to print/publish before a source can be verified.

A good example of this is the recent Rolling Stone story that chronicled the gang rape of a University of Virginia coed at a fraternity house. The story triggered demonstrations, vandalism of the frat house, and a national outpouring of anger.

Except it simply was not true. The reporter involved did not verify the college student’s story and, supposedly, did not speak to many of the principle individuals involved.

In the end, Rolling Stone paid millions in legal costs and damages.

The rumored involvement of foreign intelligence operations in the release of election-related information cannot be ignored, either.

If a Russian spy agency did manipulate the release of information damaging to Hilary Clinton, this represents a huge flaw in our ability to obtain, understand, and interpret information that is presented to the public.

Just to be clear, I could care less that damaging information was released on Clinton. The truth is the truth. But what if the Russians had just been honest and said, “Yeah, it’s us behind this.”

Would that have made the information any less true? I don’t think so. But the source of information should always be known.

Many websites plaguing the internet pretending to be “news” but are really just conduits for propaganda. The anti-vaccine websites are a great example of this.

There are four or five anti-vaxer sites that are very predominant and often share the same information back-and-forth. Often, one publishes re-hashed old information and another website takes that info and publishes it as “new.”

The readers are duped and isolated from information that would help them make more informed choices.

Unfortunately, the core of this issue is nothing new. Anyone remember the term “yellow journalism” from history class? Around 1900, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were battling for readership in New York City.

To capture readers, Pulitzer’s New York World and Hearst’s New York Journal would create outlandish headlines and equally outlandish stories, often with little basis in reality. Hearst famously said: “You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”

The same thing happens today. But, how do we guard ourselves to make sure we are not deceived?

New Yorkers in 1900 had to learn which news sources are reliable and which are not. They had to recognize the difference between real and manipulated news.

Today, I think we have much growing up to do. There are some who talk of “fines” and laws against certain types of communication that can be viewed as nefarious or incorrect. These are simply ways of controlling our free speech. The Constitution is clear.

However, we have a need to return to journalistic integrity. We must demand to know the sources of information and evidence supporting its veracity (eye witness or circumstantial). Until we demand good journalism, this manipulation will not end.

If we live in a republic, we have a duty to make sure that we ingest “truth” and not fiction. This is a requirement for all of us – left and right. Then we can have a reasoned discussion about how to move forward.

A couple weeks ago I asked a simple question: which news sources do you rely upon? All of the folks who responded were conservatives with not a single liberal voicing his or her choices.

Noonan obtains his info from Drudge, CNN, MSLSD (MSNBC), Daily Beast, Huff Post (when feeling frisky), NY Times, Washington Post (WaPo), and Real Clear Politics.

Bob R listens to the BBC. I get my info from The Signal, Yahoo News, Fox, CNN, and several different liberal podcasts.

Hopeful gets her info from Fox, CNN, cNBC, Local TV (2, 5, 9), The Signal, Arizona Daily Sun, WaPo, Politico, Real Clear Politics, Drudge, the Blaze and Breitbart.

Brian Baker gets his news from the Signal, WaPo, LA Daily News, LA Times, NY Times, Townhall, Fox, AM 870 (Prager/Levin/Elder) or KHTS.

How do you get your news? Do you trust your journalists to be fair and impartial? Or are you satisfied to receive the news that fits your own bias?

Our press should always be free. But we must also be on the alert to assure the integrity of our news at all times to prevent deception and subsequent harm to our republic.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and thinks he is a good and honest communicator. Just ask his wife. Wait. Don’t. He can be reached at slunetta63@yahoo.com.

 

 

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Steve Lunetta: Digital freedom of the press

After a previous “Right About Now” column about liberal overreaction to president-elect Trump, I began to think more about the dissemination of news and information with regards to politics. Without a doubt, it is having a significant impact on all of us.

First of all, let me declare that I am rabid about freedom of the press. This is a cherished and hallowed belief that every American school child learns at an early age.

It is the best way for truth to be discovered and communicated.

But there is also a very dark side to this freedom, since it leaves us open to abuses by unscrupulous people. Those who wish to manipulate us for financial or political gain can do so quite easily.

This has become more acute recently, since many in the press rush to print/publish before a source can be verified.

A good example of this is the recent Rolling Stone story that chronicled the gang rape of a University of Virginia coed at a fraternity house. The story triggered demonstrations, vandalism of the frat house, and a national outpouring of anger.

Except it simply was not true. The reporter involved did not verify the college student’s story and, supposedly, did not speak to many of the principle individuals involved.

In the end, Rolling Stone paid millions in legal costs and damages.

The rumored involvement of foreign intelligence operations in the release of election-related information cannot be ignored, either.

If a Russian spy agency did manipulate the release of information damaging to Hilary Clinton, this represents a huge flaw in our ability to obtain, understand, and interpret information that is presented to the public.

Just to be clear, I could care less that damaging information was released on Clinton. The truth is the truth. But what if the Russians had just been honest and said, “Yeah, it’s us behind this.”

Would that have made the information any less true? I don’t think so. But the source of information should always be known.

Many websites plaguing the internet pretending to be “news” but are really just conduits for propaganda. The anti-vaccine websites are a great example of this.

There are four or five anti-vaxer sites that are very predominant and often share the same information back-and-forth. Often, one publishes re-hashed old information and another website takes that info and publishes it as “new.”

The readers are duped and isolated from information that would help them make more informed choices.

Unfortunately, the core of this issue is nothing new. Anyone remember the term “yellow journalism” from history class? Around 1900, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were battling for readership in New York City.

To capture readers, Pulitzer’s New York World and Hearst’s New York Journal would create outlandish headlines and equally outlandish stories, often with little basis in reality. Hearst famously said: “You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”

The same thing happens today. But, how do we guard ourselves to make sure we are not deceived?

New Yorkers in 1900 had to learn which news sources are reliable and which are not. They had to recognize the difference between real and manipulated news.

Today, I think we have much growing up to do. There are some who talk of “fines” and laws against certain types of communication that can be viewed as nefarious or incorrect. These are simply ways of controlling our free speech. The Constitution is clear.

However, we have a need to return to journalistic integrity. We must demand to know the sources of information and evidence supporting its veracity (eye witness or circumstantial). Until we demand good journalism, this manipulation will not end.

If we live in a republic, we have a duty to make sure that we ingest “truth” and not fiction. This is a requirement for all of us – left and right. Then we can have a reasoned discussion about how to move forward.

A couple weeks ago I asked a simple question: which news sources do you rely upon? All of the folks who responded were conservatives with not a single liberal voicing his or her choices.

Noonan obtains his info from Drudge, CNN, MSLSD (MSNBC), Daily Beast, Huff Post (when feeling frisky), NY Times, Washington Post (WaPo), and Real Clear Politics.

Bob R listens to the BBC. I get my info from The Signal, Yahoo News, Fox, CNN, and several different liberal podcasts.

Hopeful gets her info from Fox, CNN, cNBC, Local TV (2, 5, 9), The Signal, Arizona Daily Sun, WaPo, Politico, Real Clear Politics, Drudge, the Blaze and Breitbart.

Brian Baker gets his news from the Signal, WaPo, LA Daily News, LA Times, NY Times, Townhall, Fox, AM 870 (Prager/Levin/Elder) or KHTS.

How do you get your news? Do you trust your journalists to be fair and impartial? Or are you satisfied to receive the news that fits your own bias?

Our press should always be free. But we must also be on the alert to assure the integrity of our news at all times to prevent deception and subsequent harm to our republic.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and thinks he is a good and honest communicator. Just ask his wife. Wait. Don’t. He can be reached at slunetta63@yahoo.com.

 

 

About the author

Steve Lunetta

Steve Lunetta

Raging, far-centrist conservative moderate with a slightly tongue-in-cheek humorist approach.

  • Brian Baker

    Why, Steve, you sneaky devil, you.

    Little did I (or anyone else, I’ll bet) know that when you asked us about this a while back, we’d end up with cameos in your column. Pretty cool, bro!

    • Steve Lunetta

      After thinking about it, there is a hole in my own personal viewing. Ironically, I am missing the far-right perspective. As such, Hopeful has convinced me to start monitoring Breitbart!

      • Brian Baker

        Townhall’s good, too.

        • noonan

          If you want a wide variety of left/right/center, Real Clear Politics has no match.

          • tech

            I find RCP does a credible job of aggregation as well, Noonan.

      • hopeful

        We can all thank Indy, Steve. I had no clue about Breitbart until Indy kept blaming that outlet for all sorts of things. Thanks Indy!

    • indy

      I think this responder and the Op-ed writer have to be careful as to what is considered a ‘news’ source and what is considered a partisan media outlet that ‘frames’ the news within their respective ideology.

      Sites like Townhall, Brietbart, Fox, AM 870 (Prager/Levin/Elder) (conservative) and Huffington Post, Blaze (liberal) are media outlets designed to portray a given set of beliefs where the ‘news’ is framed in same making such ‘news’ little more than propaganda for political purposes.

      Sites like CNN and MSNBC report the ‘news’ in a ‘folklore’ type of manner that essentially likes to make it ‘happy talk’.

      Newspapers are perhaps the best choice like the NY Times, LA Times, and the Signal including AP articles.

      Overall, the media today is there to ‘sell’ stuff and make profits . . . it often reports the ‘news’ out of context trying to fit it nicely into existing American Folklore as to not ‘upset’ most of their listeners or viewers.

      And now we’ve got president elect Trump telling people not to believe the ‘media’ at all . . . which is frightening.

      In any event, I get my ‘news’ from the ‘sources’ presented . . . to get away from reporter and media ‘framing’ that often times is just there to ‘sell’ same to ‘who’ they believe are seeing their work.

      In all cases, the public is left wanting for professional journalism that goes beyond the ‘profit lines’ put forth by their respective owners.

      I do agree with Steve that you should ‘hear’ all sides . . . but I can only suggest going to the foundations of the news articles to see if the ‘data’ being reported has been ‘framed’.

      It’s true that the constitution protected the ‘free press’ but as we today, it’s no longer ‘free’ . . . having been captured by media outlets as ‘profit centers’, again selling to those they believe ‘read’ or ‘view’ their work.

      This type of ‘journalism’ isn’t solving our problems or educating/informing our citizens beyond folklore, ideology or beliefs.

      Until that changes, most of the problems we see today that have been around for decades will continue to persist . . . since solution to modern problems, again, don’t lie in folklore, ideology or beliefs.

      I suggest the media hold up their sources to ‘demonstrated’ results or data that is verifiable beyond ‘hacked emails’ or the up and coming ‘fake news’ sites.

  • nohatejustdebate

    Well done, Steve. I absolutely loathe what has become of the mainstream media today. They don’t even try to pretend to be unbiased journalists anymore. Today’s media see themselves as advocates for their ideological causes and exploit their roles in the media to advance their own agenda. Here’s a case in point, complete with my news source:

    “The Center for Public Integrity published some alarming numbers Monday: Hundreds of people who work in the news media have donated a total of about $382,000 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, while only 50 or so media professionals have given about $14,000 to Donald Trump. That’s a whopping 96 percent of media dollars going to Clinton.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/17/a-shower-of-media-donations-to-hillary-clinton-looks-bad-but-numbers-dont-tell-the-whole-story/?utm_term=.336b18bc7d78

  • hopeful

    Great column, Steve! In conversation with my friends, it becomes quite obvious what news organizations they limit themselves to. For instance, one of my best friends asked me why I took issue with Hillary Clinton for having her own server. After more discussion, this friend said that she would be more opposed to Hillary having that server if there was classified information on it. Mind you, this is a highly educated woman, who has a very high-level job, but she honestly had no idea that Hillary’s server had classified information on it.

    Yes, my friend is a liberal (I still love her regardless and would never “unfriend” her for her political views), but her lack of awareness about Hillary and her server confirms her “news” bias.

    As I have stated in the past, I was not, nor am I a Trump supporter, but at the same time, I also couldn’t support Hillary Clinton. However, watching all the various news shows, it was outrageous how biased most of the news commentators from both sides were! After watching people like Andrew Cuomo on CNN and Sean Hannity on Fox News, I think BOTH should be fired for their extremely biased, and at time times, flat out lies during the political campaign.

    Unfortunately, it appears that many of the news outlets haven’t learned anything because the reporting after the election is just as biases as before. So, yes, Steve, we all should do our part to read a variety of sources with the hope that we can find the truth.

    • noonan

      The difference between Cuomo and Hannity is that one is an opinion host while the other pretends he’s an unbiased newscaster.

      • tech

        That delineation is obviously no longer a distinction in journalism. All pretense of impartiality was dropped attempting to drag Clinton across the finish line. I see no serious effort to date to restore balance.

  • noonan

    Good job Steve. Again, it shows conservatives are generally more informed since EVERY one of us goes to numerous liberal sources. And yet we’re accused of being small minded. It reminds me of when O’Reilly, who I watch only very rarely, has a guest on who accuses Fox of lying. He asks them to cite the lie and they never can.

    On another note, listening to CNN this morning, Berman and Bauldwin, they were very critical of Trump on the Carrier deal. They accused him of picking winners and losers and engaging in back room politics. It was I could do not spit my coffee out.

    • Steve Lunetta

      I am very disappointed that liberals did not share their new sources. If Lois or Indy or stevehw would share this information, I think it would be very informative and insightful.

      • tech

        You may wish to consider there’s a reason why it may not have been shared, Steve.

  • Brian Baker

    An interesting historical side note here, brought to mind by some of the comments.

    Somehow or another there seems to be a misconception prevalent in our country that the “free press” is somehow supposed to be an unbiased entity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In the Revolutionary era, the “press” of the time consisted of “broadside” publications that espoused a political view, and were often published by individuals or groups with a particular agenda they were pushing. There was nothing “objective” or “unbiased” about them; they were political tools of their publishers, and unabashedly so.

    And frankly, in the intervening years nothing much has changed. The advocacy of individual publications has, for the most part, become more subtle in the modern era — at least until recently — but that entire conceit of an “unbiased” press is basically a myth invented and promoted by academia when the first journalism schools — primarily at Columbia — were formulating their curricula.

    • Brian Baker

      I forgot to mention that the formulation of that curricula began in the 20th Century, so it’s a late arrival on the scene.

    • tech

      An astute observation, Brian. Recollect all the pamphlets, speeches, etc. that occurred in the Revolutionary era in addition to the newspapers in larger cities as well. All were flacking a viewpoint.

      • Brian Baker

        Yep. Exactly.

  • tech

    Another thought provoking column, Steve.

    The free flow of information requires a consumer of it to exercise judgement and draw from a heterogeneous pool of sources.

  • Nishka

    Here are some informative and insightful questions about Trump that should be answered !!!!!!
    “How are we to trust the decision-making of a president so easily waylaid by nonsense?”
    “Does Trump’s lack of attention span and refusal to read make him susceptible to conspiracy theories?”
    “Can he continue his willful indifference to reality and still govern?”
    “Do his personal grievances interfere with his ability to function as president?”
    “Who, if anyone, can reason with a man this irrational?”

    • Steve Lunetta

      Nishka- where do you get your news from?

    • tech

      Nishka, your logical fallacy is: loaded question.

      You asked a question that had a presumption built into it so that it couldn’t be answered without appearing guilty.

      Loaded question fallacies are particularly effective at derailing rational debates because of their inflammatory nature – the recipient of the loaded question is compelled to defend themselves and may appear flustered or on the back foot.

      https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/loaded-question

      Don’t expect rational folks to respond to such obvious baiting. You must first prove your premises by formulating a cogent argument in your own words. Cutting and pasting unattributed quotes doesn’t suffice.

  • Nishka

    “Drain any swamp and what you have left are mud-covered bottom-feeders. Like Trump and his cronies.”
    “Trump is the “bait and switch” master con man who appealed not to reason or even the good of the country but the worse in Americans and mankind–anger, fear, hatred, ignorance, bigotry, and selfish, self-interest. Considering that the pro-rich, anti-poor, anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-women, gays, minorities, but pro-war mongering, war profiteering, pro-torture GOP have historically NEVER represented the working class. “

  • noonan

    Lois, you need to calm down. It’s not good for a person of your advanced age to get this hysterical.

  • nohatejustdebate

    Hopeful – seeing the photos of all the columnists these days highlights how we need more perspective from a woman’s point of view. I love your comments. Have you ever submitted a column or letter? If not, please do!

    • James de Bree

      I concur, I think if hopeful submitted a column it would be well received.

    • Steve Lunetta

      Hopeful- send it in! Lila would love it.

      • hopeful

        Thanks guys for your confidence, but I honestly wouldn’t know what to write if I had my own column. If that changes in the future, I will definitely consider it.

        • tech

          You can write under SCV Voices without a commitment, hopeful. I’ll add my voice to others in welcoming your thoughtful insight when you had an issue you’d like our community to address.

  • Nishka

    “Trump Treasury pick made millions after his bank foreclosed on homeowners
    Steven Mnuchin’s OneWest filed to take a 90-year-old woman’s house after a 27-cent payment error.”

    “Donald Trump wasn’t the only person to see opportunity in the 2008 housing collapse. As the economy recovered from the rubble of failed banks, foreclosed homes and government bailouts, Steven Mnuchin emerged a winner.”

    “That success is coming back to haunt the hedge fund manager and Hollywood producer who is Trump’s choice for Treasury secretary. OneWest, a bank Mnuchin and his partners established during the collapse, has taken steady fire from regulators and consumer advocates for myriad failures ever since.”

  • Nishka

    ” President-elect Donald J. Trump began a victory lap, heading to Indiana to celebrate both his win and his seeming success at preventing some manufacturing jobs in the state from moving to Mexico.”
    The deal with Carrier, best known for its air-conditioners, saves 1,000 jobs through a $7 million incentive package — just the kind of corporate giveaway he KNOCKED ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL “

    • tech

      Did you object to Obama’s auto bailout? Solyndra and other renewable energy “investment” failures?

      Either you’re for or against corporate subsidies. I’m against. Consistently.

  • nohatejustdebate

    Hopeful, don’t think of it as having “your own column”, though the Signal has proven it will post anything no matter how crappy, i.e. John Zaring’s “Rational Center” before he was returned to his padded cell after the humiliation of his beloved Democratic Party.

    Try it just once. Someone of your intellect and experience has lots to draw from. Write about something you feel passionate about. Push yourself. We know that Nishka speaks for most Democrats but hardly for most women. We need the fresh air.

  • Nishka

    “U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November; unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent”

    • tech

      None of this was attributable to specific policies by the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats. If they were jettisoned into the vacuum of space the report would reflect the same or an improvement based on optimism.

      Politicians don’t manage the economy. Only silly people give them credit for it.

      QED.

  • nohatejustdebate

    Something the Obama administration never mentions is that a record 95 million people have dropped out of the workforce and have given up. The labor participation rate is stuck at 62.7%, a 40-year low. Thank God the sad Obama tenure will soon be over so we can begin to fix the problems he’s failed to address during his eight years in office. Good riddance!

  • Nishka

    “Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to ‘pay a damn tax.’ . . . Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut . Wow! How’s that for standing up to corporate greed? How’s that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad?”

  • Lila Littlejohn

    Hopeful, We welcome columns when the columnist feels moved to write. Too. No weekly obligations required, as it is, indeed, a lot of work weekly.

Steve Lunetta

Steve Lunetta

Raging, far-centrist conservative moderate with a slightly tongue-in-cheek humorist approach.