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SPOTLIGHT
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The last bastion of unbiased fact

Published on -9/29/2013, 11:55 AM

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When the last library locks its doors, and all of the newspapers are gone, where will you find dependable information?

This might happen sooner than you think. Books that haven't been printed now are sold and read on Amazon Kindles, so you might be forced to rely on the Internet when you read books -- if you read, which many folks don't.

The Washington Post Co. has been sold to Jeff Bezon, founder of Amazon, for $250 million. Some wonder if Bezon, whose Amazon is forcing major book stores to close, will make a profit now that the major daily papers are on shaky financial ground.

Whether they realize it or not, Americans have relied for centuries on daily newspapers to find and report the complicated news of the day. Daily newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, have hired large editorial staffs that dug out and reported the events that affect our lives. All of this was financed by the sale of retail and other advertising. Readers' subscriptions hardly paid the mailing charges.

Many years ago, radio and television were expected to kill newspapers, but didn't. Now the Internet is eliminating the advertisers and stealing the readers who formerly made newspapers quite wealthy.

Radio mostly plays music and reads newspaper reports on air. Television news people chase ambulances and cover the events that newspapers already have featured, but mostly they furnish entertainment.

Lately, cable television has provided a new type of reporting through "news and views" programs. You probably have watched their biased and one-sided viewpoints on channels such as MSNBC and Fox News. Jaded listeners often smirk and turn off these broadcast media that they claim are presenting "biased reporting" -- and they often turn right around and apply this harsh judgment to newspapers.

These charges are not true about the United States' great daily newspapers. Many of them hire large staffs of intelligent and fair-minded reporters and editors. They limit their opinions to their editorial pages. All of this in-depth reporting presents factual information day after day.

This worked when newspapers dominated the news business. Large numbers of readers subscribed and this made it possible for these publications to sell advertising to make a living and hire many employees. Now even the largest newspapers from New York to Wichita are losing thousands of readers. They can't sell the advertising that formerly paid the bills, so they are forced to cut back.

The naked fact is the "free press," (which people think they have a right to expect) always has been financed by business. In essence, your much-heralded freedom of the press was made possible by grocers and implement dealers and automobile manufacturers and many other merchants. And the goose that laid the golden eggs is disappearing from our society.

In place of this reliable print partnership, you have available a belly full of widely flavored websites. Every biased person with a computer tries to replace the facts newspapers once provided with a galaxy of unreliable information that we can't trust as we once did the Associated Press and its cooperating newspapers.

It's true you can Google anything you want on the Internet. But, every time, you have to ask yourself: "Is it true or complete?" Nope, you can't take it to the bank. Truth is truth and opinions vary, but seldom do you find truth in public relations sites.

There's a way you can check. Scan today's newspaper and personally call the people involved in an auto crash, or what your senator said at this week's meeting. Call a dozen different sources and you probably will find the professional reporters, with college educations and years of experience, have reported all of these matters factually and without any opinion.

Of course, it's possible none of this matters. Maybe you don't want to hear facts, and neither does anyone else.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural Osborne County and is a retired weekly newspaper editor.

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