This blog is older than that Five For Fighting song that panicked about blogs.
This is from January 27, 2005, “Your mama“:
An old journalists’ maxim states: “If your mama says she loves you, check it out.”
Yet in myriad ways the press forgets this time-honored wisdom and operates on a presumption of good faith. Whenever it does so, it becomes vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Take for example the naming of legislation. A state lawmaker dedicated to educational reform introduces a bill and calls it “The Education Reform Act of 1997.” That may be an accurate representation of the bill’s substance and intent — and your mother may really love you — but you’ve still got to check it out. By accepting and adopting the name “reform” for a given piece of legislation, journalists give the bill a kind of imprimatur, a value judgment that says “this bill is a Good Thing.”
Over the years, lawmakers have gotten savvier about using the names of legislation as Orwellian marketing tools. Any bill regarding education is likely to be called something like “The Better Schools Act” — even if the actual substance of the bill turns out to be a crippling series of budget, staff and program cuts.
The names of pieces of legislation often have little to do with their substance, only with the lawmakers’ spin and salesmanship. This makes it ever more important for the press to maintain an adversarial, skeptical stance with regard to using — and therefore implicitly endorsing — such names.
Much has been written about the way journalists naively invoke the principles of “objectivity” or “fairness” to avoid this adversarial responsibility. Objectivity thus gets reduced to accepting everything at face value, and fairness gets reduced to the presumption that all actors are operating in good faith.
Thus, according to the standards of F&O Lite, if your mama says she loves you, print it. And if someone else says she doesn’t, print that too. But it’s no longer your responsibility to check anything out.