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The Bergen Record, NJ
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Loving the Undereducated
The Urban Dictionary defines the "gotcha question" as "any question that former Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is too stupid to answer." The first documented use of the phrase by Palin was when investigative reporter Katie Couric asked what sources she used as a Governor - in other words - 'How was she fed her news?'
Ms. Palin, I'm curious. What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read - before you were tapped for this - to stay informed and understand the world? Which ones specifically?
Katie Couric talking to Sarah Palin, September 30, 2008
Proud to be Stupid
Palin was offended by the question, calling it a "gotcha moment," and never really told us what she reads. Since Donald Trump has quite often spouted facts and rhetoric that have little or no basis in fact, we are kind of curious where he gets his info as well. From what we can find, he mostly relies on alt-right sources and email chain letters.
How Have We Crafted Our Opinion Pieces?
Interestingly enough, the most common question we are asked from our readers is also, "What are your sources? Where are you posting your sources?!?" If you have clicked on any of the links* floating in this website, you can see exactly who our sources are and check them out for yourself, but to make it even easier, here in our library you can access those resources directly.
Poisoning The Well
Sourcing your data wisely - in order to make informed decisions on a range of topics - really matters. Crafting public opinion is an art practiced by both those with good moral compasses - as well as those with a focused desire to grab and hold power - so navigating your way through all the crap out there is no easy task. News outlets across the political spectrum - in a never-ending concentrated effort to steer the nation's electorate into cattle runs of their choosing - throw information and misinformation at angry-bird potential voters pretty much hourly. In deciding which path to take, it is equally important to know which sources to trust as it is to know what untrustworthy sources are throwing into the world's communication stream at any given time.
Putting aside the usage of push polling - a dark art practiced in DC circles by SuperPACS and political operatives - most Americans form their opinions on the issues based on a combination of news sources and tidbits they pick up from friends & family. And when Americans voice those opinions on issues, it can directly affect legislation being cooked up by our members of Congress.
When Voters Speak Politicians Listen
Most decisions made by American politicians are influenced by their supporters. Legislators and their staffs listen very closely to the patrons who donate to them, sure, but they also keep a constant tally board on the concerns of their constituents. Seriously. When a Congressman gets a call from a constituent - weighing in on one topic or another - one more black hash mark gets added to an actual white board in their office. That's how interior polling works. When we call, or fax, send an email or a letter from the post office to a member of Congress weighing in - one way or the other - on things like abortion rights, voter ID laws, transgender bathroom usage, or reforming assault weapon statutes, a notch gets added to the reckoning and legislators take note. Contrary to popular belief, your opinion really matters to those you gave power, those you voted into office.
It's a Disgrace
Donald Trump often mentions on the stump that newspapers - whose reporting he disagrees with - are "failing, going down the tubes, a disgusting disgrace," and "about to close up shop." Like most of Donald's pronouncements, there's a little bit of truth in that. Journalism.org says that newsroom employment declined 10% in 2014, more than in any other year since 2009. The newspaper workforce has shrunk by about 20,000 positions, or 39%, in the last 20 years. In the case of The Bergen Record alone - the paper that outed Chris Christie and the Bridgegate scandal - economics have forced the top investigative newspaper in the state to release more than 500 employees so far this month with another 500 set to lose their jobs come November.
The loss of investigative truth-tellers and broadcasters of justice is devastating, and the damage might just be irreversible. Unique outside opinions and no-labels constructs are being drowned out as three of the larger newspaper companies – E.W. Scripps, Journal Communications, and Gannett – are now one, reflective of a larger trend toward consolidation in the industry. There are many, many elements responsible for the disillusionment of our quintessential American checks-and-balances institution of journalism, and not one of them has to do with quality of content. In reality, a thoughtful look into the issue instead points to changes in technology, the growth of the fifth estate, and the changing habits of Millennials. Since Trump has made it clear the only voices he listens to are in his head, the true story of the decline has probably gone unnoticed by the candidate.
That's What She Said
For some time now, Rhodes Scholar Rachel Maddow has been championing the work done by local newspapers struggling to stay open:
You need to pay and subscribe to your local newspaper. Whatever it is, your local paper needs you. It needs to exist. It needs to have enough reporters on staff, to have enough subscriber income to pay for local reporters and to pay for editors so you can actually get coverage of what goes on at these usually pretty boring meetings in your county and in your town - because sometimes they’re really important. Remember, all politics is local.
Freedom of the Press
All of that is a sad state of affairs in a country where the "right to circulate opinions in print" is referred to as freedom of the press and a protected right right up there in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The first one, folks. With all of the problems involved with the fledgling start-up, the founders of the US of A found the wisdom to protect the voices of the press and put a value on it beyond all other concerns. They handwrote it into the First Amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, in an effort to be as patriotic as possible, we posit here that those legacy institutions of knowledge - those brave enough to speak truth to power - need our support now more than ever.
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May We Suggest...
honest brokers - Newspaper & Magazine Subscriptions (Some of these are apps)
OH, The Places You'll Read About - Books and DVDs Across The Spectrum
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