Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - August 27, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
The role of the Canadian newspaper TuMday, August LETHBRIDGE Abbreviated version of The Royal Bank of Canada monthly letter There are, to news- papermen, three person- ages of particular dis- tinction in history. Edmund Burke, great parliamentarian, flattered the press gallery by pointing to its members and naming them the Fourth Estate, far more important than the other three estates in Parliament. Thomas Jefferson said that he would prefer newspapers without a government to a government without newspapers. Voltaire set a standard for freedom of speech by telling Helvetius: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Canadian newspapers, by and large, accept and remain steadfast to these three 18th century authorities. Their virtues deserve to be recognized because they are greater than their faults. A newspaper cannot please everyone every day. Here is a situation wherein each side benefits by having knowledge of the needs and difficulties of the other. It has been said often that the newspaperman must know his public: it will help if the reader knows something of the problems of the reporter and the editor, and how they go about solving them. The newspaper is produced for commercial gain, sold under highly competitive conditions, and must have careful business manage- ment. If it is not issued for sale so as to make a profit, it is not a distinct individual, but a part or adjunct of something else. If published to advance any cause, it is an organ, not a newspaper. It cannot be independent unless it earns its living. The perfect newspaper will be the voice of the lowly and oppressed and forgotten people, champion of the under dog. If, in discharge of its responsibility, it occasionally troubles the public conscience, that is not to its discredit. If it is a defender of civil liberty and a friend of righteous causes it is performing a worthy service. Its chief function is to hold up a mirror to the happenings of the day. If it is careful to keep the mirror clean and as flawless as possible, the reflections will be honest, clear and interesting. Any list of qualities that makes a show of being ideal in all characteristics may be unattainable in action, but failure should be due to impediments in the process and not to neglect of the purpose. When seeking to form principles there is no use in looking at any but the best practices as aiming points. Newspaper writing and newspaper reading are not jobs for people who cannot, when necessary, look at a subject objectively. The reader needs to distinguish between knowledge and guessing, between trained and casual observation; between credulousness. Learn to appraise the piece you are reading: is it statement of fact, interpretation, opinion, argument, or special pleading? In an important report, is someone named as authority? It is commonplace for a writer to be surprised by what some critics find to be critical about in his articles. They are likely to see in a reporter's story not what he has written but what they are looking for. Anyone can make complaints, but criticisms that arise out of positive, constructive thinking may yield valuable guidance, knowledge, and therefore civilization, are advanced by criticism and negation as well as by positive suggestion. Probably the complaint most often heard is that the press is sensational. Reporters on a good story are reluctant to prick the bubble that reflects the world in brilliant colors and turn it into a little soap and water. Some persons mistake this addiction to brightness for sensa- tionalism. Critics seem to imply that in some way the prominent Berry's World 1974 by NEA. Icli "Lady, as someone once said, 'If you have to ask the price, you can't afford printing of dramatic reports is not a very good or decent thing to do. Looked at without prejudice, this charge boils itself down to an allegation that newspapers recognize human interest values and play them up, realizing that their readers are intelligent people, interested in the colorful truth revealed in world happenings every day. Objection may be made legitimately to the manner of reporting or the over- emphasis given reports of violence and crime in some newspapers. In 1971 a paper called Good News was launched in California to print all the bright, happy doings which most newspapers cannot spare room -for. After 16 months it had to throw in the towel, thousands of dollars in the red. People did not want Good News. Another complaint is that the newspapers contain too much advertising, but advertising is necessary not only to provide revenue for the paper but to give information to the reader. We need to know, so that we can plan our day-to-day living, what things are available for our convenience, comfort, and efficiency. There are some variations in the treatment of advertising by newspapers. Finland's Helsingin Sanomat throws out advertising to make space for late news, while the Argyllshire Advertiser has been known to announce: ''To avoid disappointing our advertisers a number of news items have had to be held over this week." A criticism levelled at some newspapers is that they are organs of propaganda. Propaganda is anything you read that makes you feel some action should be taken, and it would be a poor news sheet that never gave that feeling. On the other hand, newspapers are criticized because they do not print things that people want to have printed free to support some good cause. The reason for refusal may be that the articles are boring, amateurishly written, or without a spark of human interest. Some newspapers make it a point, when the project is a good one, to have a competent person rewrite the article, perhaps with new material added, so that the story performs a worthy function and at the same time informs readers in an interesting way. News is accurate information about any event of public or human interest, or the record of significant acts or opinions. It tells about something that is different from daily routine. An ordinary person doing an ordinary job in an ordinary way is not the subject of a news story, but if you have an extraordinary man or woman in action, or an ordinary man or woman doing an extraordinary job, or doing an ordinary job in an extraordinary way, that is news. There are sorts and degrees of news. Some things that happen in a village are news there but not in a town a few miles away. Happenings on the stock exchange are news on the financial page, and not anywhere else except on days when there is a financial upheaval. Two attributes of the good newspaper reporter today are selection and sincerity. He knows what incidents to include to give his canvas the image of life, and he cannot be induced to omit an iota of what he believes to be essential. He is neither too dainty to face facts as they are, nor too blind to discern their full significance, but he will not revel in the unhealthy or set down anything in malice. He is true to the facts whether he is writing an account of a high school concert or a report of the clash of events in world politics. All good writing implies selection and organization. Efficient editorship is essential. By applying hindsight, foresight, imagination and initiative the editor trains his staff in knowledge of what news is and in the techniques of getting it and writing it. It is the editor's duty to see that stories are developed so as to explain for the reader's benefit what has happened. The "how" and the "why" of events are most important. If the editor ignores this function he will turn out a paper that seems to indicate that it is in business for this day only, or that he anticipates a wholly new set of readers tomorrow. An editorial page which offers genuinely worthwhile fare will not have to worry about lack of readers. People are eager for authoritative guidance by writers who know what they are writing about and take pains to illuminate what is going on. In a society that is largely affected by fear, insecurity, uncertainty, the deterioration of values, disillusionment and materialism, readers do not desire editorials that are bland recitals without any challenge to think. More people than ever before are interested in knowing not only what is happening but why it is happening. They need strongly interpretative material to help them to think their way through the fog of events. Freedom of thought, in any valuable sense, includes freedom of expression. Where men cannot without fear convey their thoughts to one another, no other liberty is secure. Freedom of the press means that an idea shall have its chance even if it is not shared by those who own or manage the press. The press is not free if those who operate it behave as though their position conferred upon them the privilege of being deaf to ideas which the processes of free speech have brought to public attention. Freedom of the press is to be guarded as a vital right of mankind. Canada has no peace-time censorship, puts no embargo on the import or export of news, and does not Call FALL CLEANING! AIR VAC 328-O286 Here's what we do: Entire duct system is sanitized, leaving a pleasant aroma Fan and motor are removed, cleaned and oiled Chimneys are inspected and cleaned, flues and heat exchanger are cleaned and checked, burners are cleaned and adjusted A PROPER CLEANING DOESN'T COST, IT PAYS! CALL AIR VAC A DIVISION OF NEUKO Sheet Metal Ltd. 1811 2nd Avenue South Complete Furnace Service Work and Repair Phone 328-0286 tell editors what to print, what opinions to express, or what "causes" to support. This freedom, however, does not confer the liberty to be carefree in newspaper publishing. Freedom of the press does not give liberty to publishers, editors and reporters to print what they like. It is freedom for the people to get information and to express opinions. The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States was not adopted for the benefit of newspapers but to prevent interference by the government with the citizens' right to receive news. In A Free and Responsible Press, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1947, freedom and obligation are linked in this way: "This implies that the press must also be accountable. It must be accountable to society for meeting the public need and for maintaining the rights of citizens and the almost forgotten rights of speakers who have no press." Some newspapers exploit their freedom by harassing people, by publishing material that is not news but private business, by invading privacy, and by printing half-truths based upon "leaked'' information. There are four principles that tend to keep the press from infringing the public's rights: accuracy, factual reporting, decency, and fairness. A newspaper is not to be excused for inaccuracy that is caused by lack of thoroughness within its control. The newspaper must be decent, not only in the language and pictures it uses, but in the way it goes about obtaining the news. There are situations occurring in human life into which no newspaper can decently justify intrusion. Plausible arguments are brought forth by those who approve the use of obscenity and verbal titillation. It is contended by some persons that such material is the stuff of life, and that it is the duty of organs of public information to leave no one deceived about the real nature of the world. Men and women who support the policy of publishing "the raw stuff of life" are not avant-garde but throw-backs toward barbarism. Civilized people seek refinement. In fact, civilization itself is the result of refining coarse ways of living. That a newspaper is free to publish something without prior permission does not mean that it may say what it likes with impunity. If the article is defamatory or seditious or blasphemous or obscene, or commits any other legal wrong, the paper can afterwards be made liable for it. Just as the citizen tries to order his life so as to live decently, effectively and fruitfully, so a newspaper can contribute to its generation by telling the news in accord with the principles of honesty, impartiality, integrity, accuracy and fairness. This generation is talking about disarmament and world peace, women's liberation and liberal, conservative and socialistic politics, the abuse of drugs, the relative virtues of classical and popular music, and the various sorts of new art. But all of these must be interpreted in terms of changed world conditions and of new knowledge in the sciences and arts. That is the task of the newspaper. In all this the newspaper has a double duty. It must comport itself so that it is read by mature people because of its reliability, and by young people because of its forward look. It is to the newspaper's credit if it keeps a bit above the level of its time. Books in brief "Gettysburg: The Final Fury" by Bruce Catton. (Doubleday Canada Ltd., 114 An extremely good, interesting and detailed ac- count of the beginning of the end of the Civil War. The author gives both sides' strategies, successes and blunders, delving into the background of the principals. Photos, sketches and maps add greatly to the reader's pleasure and understanding. GARRY ALLISON Little car, big trouble By Eva Brewster, freelance writer COUTTS Societies have been formed to pressure certain car manufacturers into admitting to, and compensating their dissatisfied customers for, having sold them lemons. But there are other automakers who create just as much havoc among family fortunes with letters proclaiming only too rea'dily the errors and omissions of their assembly lines. One of the main reasons for buying our kids that much advertised little fun-car early in 1972 were its safety features. We, their gullible parents, were assured they'd have years of accident-free driving ahead of them. The fact that its small, compact 4-cylinder engine lacked the power of a larger vehicle, only encouraged our fond belief they could not possibly use excessive speed and would therefore not be so likely to come to harm. "How thoroughly was my immediate reaction to General Motors' first letter of July (before fully digesting its This communication advised us our children's car may have a defective axle shaft. If so, GM's product service department warned, "excessive end play (in the defective axle shaft) could cause the rear wheel to move outwards and rear braking might be lost... If outward movement is it went on, "wheel and axle may separate from the car and loss of vehicle control could result. Inspection and axle replacement will be performed at no charge to you." This, at the time, was no consolation because our youngsters had gone off into the Rockies for the weekend. Since they might be anywhere between Waterton and Jasper, in Alberta or B.C., which police force could be mobilized to find and warn them of the danger they were in? Or would an RCMP car flagging them down be enough to cause them to use brakes suddenly, lose control and go over the side of a steep mountain road as wheel and axle separated? That weekend's nightmares won't be forgotten in a hurry. Still, we forgave GM the minute our kids walked into the house again without a scratch. Needless to say, the car was inspected and any possible fault corrected. We were again truly thankful to have dealt with so honest a company and were once more convinced no safer car could be travelling the roads of Canada. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that we dealt not too kindly with our son who, in the middle of the following icy winter, came walking home because, he claimed, "that miserable little engine had become overheated due to no fault of his own and the block was cracked." "That's my husband informed him sternly, "you will never drive it again. You must have been speeding like a maniac to cause the engine to overheat in below zero temperature." The boy denied this vehemently of course. When, a repair bill of some arrived later, GM offered, to pay half of it without any persuasion on our part, we should have got the message. Yet. the company's initial honesty paid off as far as we were concerned. Unfortunately, we now tended to trust General Motors rather than our teenager who has been walking ever since. Not until June of this year, almost 11 months after we had spitefully got rid of that little fun-car (the engine once again overheated and required a complete overhaul) did we come to regret our misplaced trust in its manufacturers. This time, GM of Canada dropped yet another bombshell surprise in our mail: a coolant recovery system is available for 1971-f 72 and early 1973 Vegas You will receive the coolant recovery kit and installation at no charge to you In those instances where engine damage in the past resulted from an overheat condition General Motors will provide a policy adjustment beyond the normal warranty period as a matter of goodwill." Too late. GM's goodwill cannot undo the damage to a youngster's trust in his parents' fairness since for once he was not guilty of any mischief; nor can it bring back a practically new car we could not sell to anybody but an auto-wrecker If anv good came out of the experience at all, it is that walking is a lot healthier and safer than driving any sloppily constructed fun-car, large or small. And if there is any consolation, it is that we were dealing with a firm whose honesty is certainly on record. Hopefully, it will now not penalize its clients for trusting them. An historic lesson By Hal Hoffman The resignation of Richard Nixon as presi- dent of the United States was a very signifi- cant event. The sordid trail of events, evasions and outright lying at the highest of- ficial level are too well documented to cast even a shadow of doubt over his guilt and too recent in memory to require reciting every detail here. The world has just witnessed a great nation's constitution put to the ultimate test and seen the United States come through with flying colors. Among other things, the con- stitution was supposed to guarantee freedom of speech and press, equality of justice and the rule of law. Under Richard Nixon as president, and the nation's attempt to unseat him, these provisions of the constitution met a stiff challenge, but it was found to be quite adequate to the test. Surely there must be a deep and abiding lesson in all this turmoil that is universal in scope. Is it not ironic that a man of Quaker background should be caught out like this? The Quakers of America in their quiet, peaceful way led the anti-war protest not by loud demonstrations but by providing medical assistance to North Vietnam. Mr. Nixon's dis- torted perception of his forebearer's humble philosophy is graphically, yet pathetically il- lustrated bv the fact that his best friends turned out to be his worst enemies! The big question is whether Richard Nixon's morals and ethics are an aberration or are they per- vasive throughout western society? Sometimes we can get a better look at ourselves by looking backwards to see how our ancestors handled affairs and to assess their character in order that we might see if we have made any progress. In my own case, my people on the maternal side of the family were Mennonites who emigrated to Canada from Russia in the late 1880s. The church was. of course, the central institution in their lives and was run entirely by laymen. Another institution they had was the Waisenamt which in effect was a banking authority: again run by laymen. Transactions were registered, but no signature was re- quired on a loan. The man's word was his signature. There was in those days little affluence and most of the wealth was in kind, not in currency. This system of implicit trust in one's fellow man was practised for many years but came into gradual disuse when the more "worldly types." Mennonites and non- Mennonites. started to take advantage of the system. We might well ask ourselves how could such a basic trust be established and main- tained. Obviously, they were a very cohesive group and upheld each other's high principles by expecting correct judgment and the best behavior from each other. They were a non- violent people who refused to bear arms against their fellow man. Is modern man too aggressive in his approach to many aspects of life to be trusted at his word? Through modern technology, the world has shrunk to the size of a global village. The terror and the sheer power of the H-Bomb has made the world into an armed camp. It just makes me shudder to think that a man like Richard Nixon had his finger on the button! What the world needs now is people of character, especially in our political affairs, who could run a Waisenamt. Book review. Beginning astronomy "Asimov on Astronomy" by Isaac Asimov, (Doubleday and Company Inc., This book covers much of the material usually included in beginning astronomoy courses. Asimov devotes most of the book to the solar system concentrating on the planets and their moons but including essays on the Earth's tides, meteorites falling from space and even one essay on comets. He completes the survey with several short essays on the stars, the planets which probably revolve around them, and the arrangement of the stars into gigantic groupings called galaxies. All of the essays included in the book are reprinted from individual past issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. All appeared in print for the first time after June 1959. The volume contains many footnotes which upgrade the essays by noting later dis- coveries or indicating changes to the original texts to make them consistent with current knowledge. Using this technique Asimov has been able to revise his earlier essays without destroy- ing the short sketches which he uses to introduce the reader into each essay topic. His introductory sketches are often anec- dotal, sometimes historical, but always interest arousing. In fact this book is the Asimov which we look forward to with each new release, it displays the author's unique talent for communicating the more important technical details of science clearly and under- standably to the average reader. Yet, more important Asimov does it while entertaining the reader with his imaginative style. If you are curious about how gravity orders the motion of the planets, or why the sky is dark at night, or how our sun resembles the other stars we see each night, Asimov On Astronomy is the book for you. E. R. MILTON Welcome, George By Doug Walker When Elspeth and I' were on our first pastoral charge in Saskatchewan my college roommate George Ward and his wife Mary were on a neighboring charge. We used to visit back and forth frequently and I always saved up fixing jobs for handyman George. Now our visits are much less frequent but there are usually some jobs waiting for George despite the fact that I have cultivated the friendship of a couple of handymen in Lethbridge. This summer when George and Mary came for a visit we had George put new wheels on my golf cart, tune the piano, take the squeak out of a closet door and several other things. VVnen he finished these jobs Elspeth still had some suggestions to make. George listened quietly and then dryly remarked that his holi- day ended in a week.