How we know

How do you know this?

In my years as a newspaper reporter, that was a question I couldn’t resist asking critics of the news media.

When someone would complain to me about the news media, I would respond first by asking the critic what he or she knew about a recent major news event — a violent crime in the area, perhaps, or the exposure of corruption in a public official, damage wrought by a hurricane, the outcome of a big sporting event. My critic invariably would know all about it and have formed plenty of opinion on the subject.

Then I would ask: How do you know this? Could it be that you read it in the newspaper or heard it on the 6 o’clock news? That was pre-Internet days, when we relied on newspapers, TV and radio to keep us informed about what was happening in our world.

We can’t live our lives without reliable information, and as sources abound nowadays, we have plenty of choice. The newspapers of my generation have struggled to survive financially in this fast-paced electronic environment, but some of the great ones still soldier on, laboring to deliver to us reliable, fact-based reporting every day. I refer in particular to The Washington Post and The New York Times, but we still are blessed with many others, and I am grateful for all of them.

We need them. Dictators hate them. The first thing a dictator does after taking control is silence the news media. Our president considers the news media the enemy. No, sir, they are not the enemy. They are our lifeline, bringing us the facts we need to know in order to make informed decisions, particularly when we vote.

The information we consume every day might not conform to our personal biases, but we need it. We need to know the truth. Particularly now.


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