Mark Simon

First, the good news. My column last week about the news media generated dozens of responses. This achieved the first goal of any regular columnist: Find a way for someone else to do your work for you. I thank you, even though I still had to do all this typing.

The other news — I would not call it bad news — is that the responses showed there is a wide range of media consumption going on, and an equally widespread skepticism about information from mainstream news sources.

Finally, and, as Moose used to say, quel surprise, even our modest and voluntary sampling showed that there are those who drink deeply of alternative information sources, convinced they are the true purveyors of what is really going on.

The vast majority of respondents said they read two or three daily newspapers, including the Daily Journal, the Chronicle, the Mercury News and The Wall Street Journal, watch network news and listen to news on the radio and read (or, perhaps, peruse) online news sources such as CNN. There was wide dismissal of network reporting as entertainment, not news.

A third of those who volunteered their news consumption habits said they regularly read The New York Times, a newspaper I described as the best in the country. This did generate some dissent.

Oscar López-Guerra wrote: “I was ready to answer your question regarding the source(s) of news I rely on. Then I saw your hyperbole statement about the formerly venerated NY Times and I decided there is no use.”

Terence Y, a conservative who frequently comments on my column, disagrees with impressive consistency and never provides his full name, said, “The original fake news source, the New York Times, could be the best newspaper in the country — if they dismissed their entire political staff. The NYT and the Amazon (Washington) Post and pretty much most of the mainstream media are well-known as Democrat mouthpieces and quality and credibility are no longer in their DNA.”

See what I did there? These two comments were the only ones that were negative about the Times, and, yet, here they are at the top of the column.

Why? Because they are more interesting than uniform agreement. Throughout my career, people often ask why is the news so negative. Because disagreement, disaster, tragedy and dissent are out of the ordinary. The Daily Journal could write a story every day that says 1,300 planes took off and landed safely at SFO. Why would they? Would you read it? But, if just one plane crashes ...

All of which prompts this thought: Credible news organizations never do their job the way you think it ought to be done. They do it the way they think it ought to be done. This independence is the point.

Herewith a sampling of the responses, with apologies to those who wrote me and do not get mentioned. Space is limited. Your comments helped inform this narrative. Thank you.

Many people kindly praised the Daily Journal. Jim Clifford said, “I think it is at least attempting to be fair. … I have become disappointed in the Chronicle, which has more bias than a used prom dress,” an irresistible turn of phrase.

Regular consumers of news are sophisticated in how they take in and digest what they are told.

I just assume that all my news sources are biased,” Donna Von Joo-Tornell said.

Ben Toy said, “IMHO, the only reliable news is a combination of far left, far right and everything in the middle to be read daily/often and then make up your own mind as to what/which/etc., is real news to yourself. To depend on one or just a few sources will only provide vision from theirs. After a while, (you develop) a personal filter of what/which ones are telling the truth most often, to those that stretch it, to those that outright lie.”

Don “Doctor Bartenstein” Esse said, “The strong language and diatribes that reporters go on about is all the fault” of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporters of the Watergate scandal. “They brought down a president, they set the bar that every reporter is now aiming for.”

Rick Simon, from a distinguished family, offered up two websites that assess media left/right bias and accuracy and attempts to offer balanced information: Mediabiasfactcheck.com and allsides.com.

Finally, there was a general consensus about how the news media should have the courage to call a lie a lie, and, on that topic, we will give the last word to my friend, Tyke Stamates: “Remember, Fiction has to make sense. The Truth does not.”

 

Mark Simon is a veteran journalist, whose career included 15 years as an executive at SamTrans and Caltrain. He can be reached at marksimon@smdailyjournal.com.

 

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(6) comments

willallen

"More bias than a used prom dress." Love it!!! Also liked the airplane analogy. Reminds me of the old quip about "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play."

Terence Y

Mr. Simon – thanks for the shout-out. Mama X and Papa Y will be even more proud of me. Of course, they would also tell me to not let it go to my head and to use my powers for truth, justice, and the American way. Unlike the NYT you hold so dearly. Unfortunately, you didn’t cut and paste the portion of my comment highlighting a few items from the NYT that contribute to the “widespread skepticism about information from mainstream news sources.” You’ll need to excuse me now as I have to find a newsstand to pick up and autograph a printed copy for dear old Mom and Dad (okay, just a little bit of it going to my head).

Mark Simon

Hi Terence. Yes, I actually spent a fair amount of time going over in my head the entirety of your comment and the risk of misrepresenting you by omitting the positive portion. I was so tight on space, I opted for just one portion because it was useful in the context of the larger discussion and it's more in keeping with your customary comments. So, I didn't feel like it was an entire misrepresentation. Plus, we don't want folks to think you're getting soft,. I do appreciate your regular. comments,.

Terence Y

Mr. Simon. Understandable with the multitude of comments you've highlighted. Meanwhile, did I read that in the NYTimes that chocolate and sweets may prevent and possibly treat COVID? For the fifth year in a row, I’m passing out toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. Wonder how many kids will stop by… seems to be less and less each year… Happy Halloween!

Tafhdyd

Mr. Simon,

I am glad you put the opposing viewpoints at the top of your column. It gives the vast number of hard copy readers a chance to see the comments that only show up in the e-edition of the DJ for those that subscribe. They get to see the negative and comical writings of one person in particular that the subscribers get to see almost daily.

Perhaps you could work the idea into your column that if they would like to participate and see the variety of comments on many items in the Journal they could also subscribe. They would both help the paper and get to see the "inside" scoop.

Terence Y

Taffy, my friend, no need for jealousy. If you submitted comments with substance, I’m sure Mr. Simon would give you a shout-out, too. I do agree that more readers should subscribe to the DJ to offer their opinions and thoughts, in addition to seeing how many folks continue to live in the past due to no Biden accomplishment to tout.

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