I listened to President Obama’s remarks in the wake of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision as I drove home from Richland, Washington last night. I prefer the radio as my news source because it takes the hype out of the kind of reporting TV shows cater to. Too many media outlets today mix opinion with facts and that is not reporting. A listener or reader has to be discerning to delineate fact from opinion in today’s media circus.
I’d watched the news earlier while sitting with a sweet friend on the 4th floor of the Medical Center. We’d tied the dog Lilly to a nearby table leg and held take-out salads on our laps as we ate and watched the reports about the forthcoming Grand Jury decision. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani was on the air, talking about how the biggest threat to black men were black men, not white cops.
The salads were a welcome relief to hospital coffee and the chaos that cancer wrecks on a family. Even the news out of Ferguson was a welcome distraction from the chemo lines and heart monitor and the incessant beeping noises that go on inside a hospital. Not to mention the wails of grief that erupt when loved ones are told those plans they had been making all these years may never be realized. That time is short and rapidly growing shorter.
Just a few short weeks ago he was tapping the hardwoods into place on the floor of their dream home. The one with the massive shop designed specifically for him. What he thought was a bad case of acid re flux turned out to be a bad case of cancer.
It hit all of us like a 2-by-4 upside the head.
He is the strongest man I’ve ever called friend. I’m talking Paul Bunyan kind of strength. The kind of fellow who could clear acres of stubborn Russian Olives in a single afternoon. The kind of man who built custom homes that rival any designer house featured on the cover of those glossy magazines selling for $7 in the grocery store rack.
Once, when he was clearing that property he and his bride call Green Acres, he happened upon a family of owls in a rotting, hallowed out tree. Because there was a baby owl in the nest, he went to extraordinary lengths to try and save that owlet.
A big man with a big heart for the tiniest of God’s creatures.
Pray for a miracle he told me before I left the hospital last night.
Oh, I am, I said. I’ve been praying for just that.
I was praying and driving through the rain and the tears last night when I turned on the radio and heard President Obama talking about the Grand Jury decision.
Most of what he said was stuff I expected him to say. Basically, the same message we’ve been knowing and repeating since I was a little girl growing up in Civil Rights era Georgia, just a stone’s throw from Birmingham and Selma.
Something about sitting with the sick makes one weary of all the noise, and right then, President Obama’s message just felt like a bunch of noise to me.
I think that it’s going to be very important and I think the media’s going to have a responsibility as well to make sure that we focus on Michael Brown’s parents and the clergy and the community leaders and the civil rights leaders and the activists and law enforcement officials who have been working very hard to try to find better solutions, long-term solutions to this issue. There is inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it will make for good TV. But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible, that the vast majority of people in Ferguson, the St. Louis region, in Missouri and around the country are looking for. And I want to be partners with those folks, and we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.
That right there, there’s wisdom in it.
Forgive me for harping, I know I keep repeating myself on this matter, but Media seems to have forgotten its role in society. Making good TV is not the role of Media. Reporting is the role of media. Reporting means to focus on facts, not spouting opinion. Someone noted that one of the news anchors took to the airwaves and declared during a major newscast that the Grand Jury had “failed” in its job to indict the police officer. As if an indictment was a forgone conclusion.
Everybody has an opinion these days.
To hell with facts.
Now I may be of the opinion that an injustice was done, but I have very little knowledge of the facts of the case. I might have an opinion about whether I think an indictment was in order but it’s just an opinion. I have nothing to base that opinion on other than that which has been reported to me by Media. I am not qualified based upon my limited access to the facts of the case to make an informed decision.
Media these days is too unreliable a source. They rely too much on rumor and innuendo. Gossip and yapping heads.
They have forfeited their reporting skills in order to be the first with a story, any story.
Sometimes Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom seems more documentary than fiction.
In the past, Media has taken its role of responsibility seriously. They pursued the rumor until they had the facts, then reported Watergate and My Lai and yes, on Birmingham and Selma. They took seriously their job to inform us, but never assumed it was their job to work us into a lather of civil disobedience.
These days far too many of our so-called journalists are newsmakers, not reporters.
There’s a difference.
And it is up to each one of us to recognize that difference and to hold Media accountable to it.
This morning, Ferguson is smoldering in the wake of rioting in the streets, but it is difficult to tell if the rioting was a show put on for the cameras or an honest expression of a fury born of injustice.
It is important that we all recognize the difference because one pursuit is utterly meaningless.
And if there is anything sitting with the sick will teach you, it is to not waste your energies on meaningless endeavors but rather to find ways to tenderly care for the tiniest of God’s creatures. And to honor those who manage to do that.