Friday, January 19, 2018

Schrodinger’s Newspaper?

I present for your edification this morning a letter to the Howard County Times:

Mr. Mercado is incensed that there is a difference between the online article and the print article about pay raises for the County Council and County Executive. He notes that a quote from Allan Kittleman is in the online version, but not included in the print edition. Mr. Mercado feels that this particular quote is key to the understanding of the issue as a whole.

The quote:

“County Council folks should have jobs outside and not use their Council job as their main source of income, because I think that causes problems,” Kittleman told the Commission. “So I would urge you strongly not to increase anybody’s salaries. I think we’re all doing fine.”

Here’s the thing. I don’t think I would have omitted this particular quote, but Mr. Mercado thinks that this was not an oversight or a poor choice in editing. He thinks it was done with malice aforethought. He assures the reader that this was done deliberately to suggest that Mr. Kittleman is in favor of the raises.

Why? It’s the “Liberal Media” he assures us. The “Liberal Media” is trying to make Mr. Kittleman look bad in an election year. His last sentence is the kicker:

This is why media cannot be trusted.

Okay, now I have a problem. I can understand noting the difference between the two pieces and the assertion that the omission may have changed the overall understanding of the piece. But taking a flying leap to claiming the “Liberal Media” is trying to sway the outcome of an election in Howard County? You’ve lost me there.

When Mr. Mercado objected to this piece, he understood that he could respond by writing a letter to the editor. He understood that they would print it. He very likely looked forward to seeing it in print. “I’ll show them!” I imagine he thought as he put the final touches on his hot letter.

So he trusted that the newspaper had a forum for public feedback. And he trusted that his words would be shared publicly with the community. In order to even bother to write this letter, he had to believe that.

But the media is not to be trusted, he tells us.

I don’t think you can have it both ways, Mr. Mercado. You have painted a picture of a newspaper that deliberately suppresses facts on the one hand, while openly printing your letter calling them out on the other hand. A sort of Schrodinger’s newspaper, if you will.

As you may have guessed,this piece does not in any way address the merit of the proposed raises themselves, but rather on the wild accusations contained in this letter. Speak out if you believe a subject needs to be addressed. By all means, call out inaccuracy when you find it. But when you start seeing conspiracy behind every tree, it might be time to put your pencil down.

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