EDITORIAL: Stop … take a breath … use your common sense

October 7, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – When you turn on the television these days, do you feel like your head immediately begins to spin? How about when you log into social media of any sort and you see news agencies like “Breitbart” or “DailyKos” screaming headlines that make no sense?
Welcome to 2016: The Year the Media Monster Made Away with Our Common Sense.
I have 10 Facebook pages I adminster every day. That means I am responsible for placing content on those pages that will interest my readers without chasing them away. I usually have a pretty good grasp on common sense when it comes to making those decisions, but one day not too long ago I came across a post that I thought was mildly politically charged, but one still based in common sense. It listed several conservative congressmen who had voted against a veterans bill, and knowing how pork is packed into almost every important bill, I didn’t doubt for a second that these gentlemen voted against the proposal. Heck, they may not have even known the veterans bill was in there.
Some of my rightwing friends went bananas, and it wasn’t about the content of the meme as much as it was that it was posted by the Huffington Post.
“Take that down,” they screamed. “That’s all a bunch of lies! How dare you! That’s from that (unprintable expletive) HuffPost! It can’t be true!”
I do care about veteran affairs, though. I do care about too much pork in so many important bills, pork that completely negates a perfectly good piece of legislation that could benefit hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter which way the Huff leans, they’re still one of the biggest news agencies in the world. They just failed to mention the Democratic congressmen who voted against the bill. Oops.
So here I go, hither and yon, running my fingers across the keyboard in the social media minefield, trying to gather up news that is maybe-sorta-somewhat-true and avoiding news that made me go, “Whaaaat?”
In this week’s newsfeed, amid pictures of creepy clowns and hurricanes, I have seen a lot of stories about racism – reverse racism, upside down racism, inside out racism … there are so many types of racism now that I’m not even sure I should open my mouth (yet here I am, maw agape). A lady running for a school board stuck her foot in her mouth when she said she wanted to help children who lived in one-parent families. People said that was racist. A Lee County deputy accused of social media racism recently resigned after reposting memes that were construed as racist. One teacher in Georgia was fired after comments she made online that were allegedly racist.
You’ll often notice me using fancy words like “allegedly,” “reportedly” and “supposedly.” That’s because journalists are supposed to be objective in their writing. We are neither the judge nor the jury. In no way, shape or form should we try to sway our readers to one opinion or another. A good news writer is, in fact, a nonindividualized entity. A nonhuman life form.
Anything else is called an editorial, like what I’m writing here.
So when the local television media got hold of an allegation against Lt. Mike D’Angelo of the Boca Grande Fire Department, they were all over it. This was the stuff their trendy dreams are made of. Without knowing much about the facts at all, one of the news stations proudly spread their banner across the front page of their website, saying that Lt. D’Angelo was fired. Not suspended pending a completed investigation, but fired. They said he said something on Twitter, but it was Facebook.
The sad part about it was that even though D’Angelo’s banner headline covered the top page of their website, the story you clicked on was two sentences long. And both sentences were wrong.
The other television station’s website contained wrong information as well, but at least they got the fact that he was suspended – not fired – correct. But that same media outlet actually went to Mike’s house to “try to obtain a statement” (at least that’s what it said in their story). So not only did they not bother to get the story correct in the first place, they were attempting to make the situation even worse by accosting a man at his house and asking him to give a statement. Who in their right mind gives a statement to news media under that circumstance? That’s called harassment. That’s called making a situation far worse than it needs to be, and when things like that happen, people start getting hurt.
The reason I had to sit down on Saturday morning and write a post about this incident was because I woke up to people tagging my personal page with the television news agency stories regarding Mike. I was getting “pinged” left and right, and while many of those people may have been totally good-natured and just wanted to make sure I was aware of the situation, I know darn good and well that some of them did it to be malicious. You see, I apparently stick up for the fire department far too much. And the sheriff’s office. And the GICIA. And the GIBA and, for all I know, the Johann Fust Library. Many people think “hard-hitting journalism” is equated with shredding someone’s reputation, creating witch hunts or causing widespread panic (behold, the clowns!).
Please take everything you see, hear and read with a grain of salt. Be different than everyone else and seriously scrutinize anything from the mass media prior to disseminating it to others, and know the difference between news agencies that sensationalize for ratings and ignore good reporting, and news agencies that are actually trying to educate you. It may not be easy, but it’s not impossible.
Marcy Shortuse
is the editor of the Boca Beacon.
She can be reached at