Listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire,” which I do this time of year, I looked up the Unetaneh Tokef prayer on which the song is based. And as our congregation recited the Al Chet during Yom Kippur, I considered what would comprise a confession of journalism sins.
It would be easy to cite offenses committed by various entities of what is referred to, with too broad a brush, as the “news media.” I prefer to speak about personal sins, committed not against any version of a deity, but against my own better angels. So…
For the sin of misspelling a name (the low hanging fruit of mistakes).
For the sin of sarcasm, of which I have been accused, and sometimes (sometimes) regret.
For the sin of snark, most often expressed on social media. But when wheelbarrows full of you know what are being dumped before you, a snarky comment is better than saying outright that someone is full of you know what.
For the sin of not challenging conventional wisdom or for accepting conclusions too easily reached.
For the sin of not challenging self-anointed “experts,” who peddle themselves as much or more than they offer well-reasoned arguments grounded in facts.
For the sin of verbalizing certain thoughts beyond conversations with my two canine assistants.
For the sin of not doing more research. Research is a fun part of this work, but there is always the chance that a noteworthy piece of information gets overlooked because there is only so much time to read before writing.
For the sin of not broadening the diversity of voices from within Jewish community in my articles.
For the sin of not proofreading just one more time. That’s why I value the pre-submission reviews by my wife and my brother the rabbi, who frequently find items to be fixed and phrasing that I can improve.
For the sin of irritation with those who do not understand the difference between an editorial or op-ed, and straight reporting.
For the sin of annoyance with those who confuse facts with truth. To quote John Adams, second president of the United States: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” From where I sit, truth is the product of facts blended with ‘the dictates of our passion.’”
For the sin of exasperation with those who read multiple news sources online, but do not pay for subscriptions, to at least some of them. If you want to know what your city government, school board, zoning authority, and utility commission are doing, support local journalism. Unless, of course, those things don’t matter to you.
Now, for those I have angered because the facts in something I wrote did not line up with a truth they hold dear, I offer no apology. And for those who feel that I should trumpet this particular truth, you may be knocking on the wrong door.
For those upset that I did not include their comments, my apologies, but please understand that sometimes I gather 10 pounds of potatoes but only have a five-pound sack.
For those who complain about my previous professional residence, the statute of limitations on my concern with such things expired when I walked out their doors.
For those who say that the “news media” (there’s that generalization again) does not report on this or that subject, I ask, did you read past the first few paragraphs of an article, or listen or watch past the first commercial break in a newscast? Do you need to reconsider your sources of information?
For those who say that the “news media” (rinse, repeat) “hates Israel,” I offer the same response as I do to other generalizations: Be specific with such criticism — some of which, I might decide, is warranted. In return, I shall refrain from suggesting that everyone in your chosen profession is (fill in the blank with a common aspersion) simply to point out the fallacy of such statements.
To those who mistakenly ascribe to me biases I do not have, your misimpression is excused. Decisions about what to include or leave out of an article are, of course, subjective, but please do not presume that they are made based on personal animus toward those you favor.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few thoughts to share with the dogs.