Veteran newsman wants media to stick to the facts!

Arguably, the news media in America is becoming its own worst enemy. As baby boomers we’ve watched it happen and now, we see it all the time, news mixed with the often-shrill opinions of pundits, yielding a mush of information to be trusted … or maybe not. What’s more, even in what is supposed to be strictly news coverage, there are are increasingly blurred lines between reporting and opinion. All of this bothers BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, himself a veteran television network correspondent. Here is his column that appeared in The Denver Post, where he is a contributor.

Right on the front page of The Denver Post, you could read that Donald Trump’s proposal to prohibit Muslims from entering the country “marked a sudden and sizable escalation … in the inflammatory and sometimes dangerous rhetoric of the candidate.” The article went on to compare Trump’s rhetoric to “the racially based appeals of then-Alabama Governor George Wallace,” and “the anti-Semitic diatribes of the radio preacher Charles Coughlin.”

Greg Dobbs

Greg Dobbs

Remember, this wasn’t here on the op-ed page where it should have been; it was on the front page of the paper. And those phrases weren’t quotes from Trump’s widening class of critics; they came from the author of the piece himself, Dan Balz, the chief correspondent for The Washington Post, where it originally had been published the day before. Mind you, The Denver Post labeled it “analysis,” but given that Balz is a reporter, not a commentator, the point might be lost on a lot of Page One readers.

That same day, NBC Nightly News ended its broadcast with a story about Trump’s proposal, which anchorman Lester Holt introduced this way: “History is replete with examples of what happens when fear and intolerance take hold and an entire category of people is marginalized, as Tom Brokaw remembers.” Then former anchor Brokaw said, “Trump’s statement, even in a season of extremes, is a dangerous proposal that overrides history, the law, and the foundation of America itself.”

Sadly, you’ll find this kind of thing almost everywhere. This past week in The New York Times, reporters referred to Trump’s “divisive phrases” and “the dark power” of his words. In news stories, not opinion columns.

A career of reporting from around the world: Greg Dobbs - on location in Moscow.

A career of reporting from around the world: Greg Dobbs – on location in Moscow.

Excuse me, but if reporters do their jobs right and give us just the facts, can’t the audience decide what’s dangerous and what’s not, what’s dark and what’s not, and whether Trump’s rhetoric resembles “racially based appeals” or “anti-Semitic diatribes?” Although I think it’s absurd to even hint at anti-Semitism in Trump’s case, I can buy the rest and personally agree with the deluge of denunciation from both ends of the political spectrum. But once reporters tell us about it, it’s our job to figure out what we think about it. Not theirs’.

Greg anchors launch of a NASA shuttle live on HDNet.

Greg anchors launch of a NASA shuttle live on HDNet.

As a reporter myself until getting into the business of commentary, I have tried to defend my profession from the widespread impression that we put our biases into our stories. Sometimes I have tried by example (as best I could), and sometimes by argument. This week though, my efforts have been trashed, by the very people I’ve long tried to defend.

The issue at stake here isn’t whether Trump’s proposal would be effective (who knows?!), or constitutional (some scholars say, maybe it would be), or even moral (you’ll get a split decision in this country on that). The issue is whether we want someone else, namely journalists, to “steer” us toward our conclusions. For the greater good of the nation, we don’t.

The people who report the news have one job and one job only: to collect the facts and deliver them. They should stick to it.


  1. The media has gone so far that they are now more about posturing and entertaining. If it sells, or it is in their opinion ‘good for America,’ then nearly anything goes. I used to enjoy the news. Now I find it offensive. Not the story but those who dare embellish it with their opinions.

  2. I have been complaining about the pontificating of newscasters for ever. Especially troublesome is the lightweight talk show hosts who have the most shallow understanding of geography and politics. Add to that the recent ubiquitous display of the faces of the San Bernadino’s terrorist which must be pure torture for the victims and their families. Yes I am a baby boomer and remember when there was a proper decorum regarding death and grieving and personal tragedies. now it’s stick the microphone in your face and ask “how do you feel?”. How do you think they feel?
    Yes I miss the Walter Cronkites of yesterday.

  3. I have not read a more accurate article in a long, long time. I have long wanted to be able to read an article and be able to think for myself rather than to have the writer tell me what I should think just because it is his/her opinion. Opinions are simply that, opinions. As I believe, but don’t quote me for accuracy, was said on the old TV show Dragnet, “The facts mam, only the facts”

  4. I have been a extremely frustrated at the constant pontificating of the “journalists ” where opinions are presented as news. I remember fondly the days when there was a decoram regarding the reporting of death and tragedies. Yes I am a baby boomer who is sickened by the ubiquitous pictures of the terrorists of the San Berndino tragedy, imagine how the victims feel about that, or the reporter who sticks a microphone in front of a victim and asks “how to you feel?” How do you think they feel. Yes, I miss the days of
    Walter Cronkite professionalism when the “facts” were presented and we did our own interpreting.

    1. I teach at the University of Colorado / Boulder and have been known to rail against giving opinion as opposed to sticking to the facts. Also, Twitter is making things even worse. The other day one of my students whom I took to a trial wanted to tweet what happened before he got me the documents from the clerk. I told him to put his phone away.

  5. Absolutely agree. Whether it’s the local newspaper or TV news, the “professionals” have lost sight of what their job is. The words they use, the emphasis they give to certain elements, the omissions — it all adds up to a biased, often inaccurate, and dishonest or outright deceitful portrayal of the facts. Even when I happen to agree with their opinion, I’m disturbed that they are giving their opinion when they’re supposed to be giving me the news. I can think for myself. Unfortunately, critical thinking skills are somewhat missing in the populace these days.

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