Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Little People Must Write to be “Heard”

I subscribe to the popular mainstream, liberal newspaper on Long Island, Newsday. I feel I have little choice in the matter, as they have a virtual monopoly on the local news. The writing is mediocre to excellent, depending on the columnist. From time to time over the years, I have cancelled my subscription after reading an outrageous, one-sided story. Within weeks I was back again, missing my daily morning read with my coffee.

After reading the same paper for many years, with careful analysis one may recognize the bias behind many of the headlines, as well as the details or lack of details that go to back up those stories. The educated person knows not to believe everything he or she hears or reads, even if it comes from the government or some other well-documented source. When a scientific study is noted, one should keep in mind that the parameters of the study are not detailed; the specific source should be found and read. One also should know that one study is just one study. There may be many studies that run counter to its results.

Most of the people who get their news from the internet already know to be skeptical and not to receive all their news from one source. Hopefully, conservatives would not just listen to conservative talk radio, or they would just hear what they want to, to back up what they already believe. I also read Suffolk Life, a weekly local paper with a conservative editor and excellent editorials.

Having to keep tabs on my infant, I am not able to follow what is being said in most of the blogs. (I do keep up on my sister’s blog and the numerous blogs of my well-educated and widely written friend Leticia Velasquez.) Nor do I find much time to sit in front of the news programs; when I do, I watch Fox News. I find the print media much easier to fit into my lifestyle. I can carry a newspaper into the bathroom while my toddler plays in the bathtub, or outside while she runs around, or into a doctor’s office, etc.

I have just finished reading a book claiming that the government and big business virtually own the media. According to the author, the little guy no longer has freedom of speech. On the contrary, I have evidence that the opposite is true.

Today’s newspaper carried two pro-life letters to the editor, in response to recent stories printed in that paper. Here is the proof that anyone, regardless of education, credentials, or whom you know, can write his or her opinion on virtually any subject and have it read by thousands of people.

The “little person” can bring subjects to awareness that many might not normally think about. For example, Suffolk Life regularly features opinions on rights to hunt or ride off-road recreational vehicles. I do neither; and yet, I feel my horizons are widened by the knowledge that people who would like to pursue these activities are being stifled.

People also know that what is presented as “fact” is also just well-documented popular opinion. The most obvious examples are the contrarion established views on dieting, which have us disbelieving what is the best way to lose weight. One decade it is calories, then it is dietary fat, etc. People are not stupid. They know to take the “news” with a grain of salt.

A well-written letter to the editor is a good way to remind the public of evidence to opposite points of view. Regardless of the bias of a specific paper, the owner wants to appear to give both sides to a story. And so, if a letter is written criticizing a journalistic point-of-view, there is a good chance it will be printed.

The influence of the blogs on the mainstream media and popular opinion is obvious. Please do not overlook the power of an op-ed piece or letter to the editor in your local newspaper.

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