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December 9, 2014

Transparency vs. Plain Old Truth

Harry M. Covert

Let’s face it. Ninety-nine and forty-four-one-hundredths percent of people always snicker, then grin or breakout guffawing hearing news that a celebrated institution or person or persons has been caught in some salacious conduct.


That could well be human nature. Most certainly it’s true. As is known to some, such conduct is used in a variety of ways: selling newspapers, periodicals, books, to promote television and movies, to destroy the subjects and put the fear of the Almighty to one and all.


In the current time, the term transparency is, and is all over the place, supplanting such old fashioned words as honesty, veracity and plain old truth.


In this age when reporters in all areas want to be investigators, the most astonishing thing is contemporary reporters don’t seem to know the basics – get the facts, attribute the facts, tell the truth.


There are several cases in point. They are titillating, scandalous and sensational. These are sad, devastating and need some examination.


For days, the public was accorded a tale from a national magazine describing in detail the gang-rape of a coed at a collegiate fraternity. The young reporter failed to name any names of attackers, but recounted the horrific incident.


Obviously the student body, faculty, administration and alumni everywhere were disgusted. Promptly, the university president suspended all the universities fraternities.


University leaders and law enforcement had difficulty finding any facts. Yes, complete details. Certainly such campus conduct is never to be condoned, at any school – or anywhere.


There is always going to be interaction on campuses everywhere but alleged gang-raping doesn’t appear in any records. If such conducted is found, the culprits should be tried and imprisoned.


The University of Virginia is known for its achievements, its quality programs and graduations. To be subject to awful allegations, and in all probably untrue, is a condemnation that borders on libel. Editors and reporters in this incident have a lot to answer for.


Since their recent reporting, the magazine, “Rolling Stone,” has backed off and said perhaps they didn’t have all of the facts. Shameful beyond measure. Incompetence in media.


How about the news of some 20 star-struck women who have made charges of sexual misconduct by comedian Bill Cosby? Obviously the media has raced with the story. Even if just half of the incidents were to be unproven, Dr. Crosby will suffer personally and professionally until the day he dies.


Sure, it’s a great story. It is truly shocking though that such a beloved entertainer would be involved in such conduct. The alleged sufferers and purported perpetrator in deed are marked forever.


The public does have short memories. Call it amnesia perhaps. The good thing about the news cycle is very simple. People keep doing unpopular things and every day is a new day.


However, reporters, journalists and word-merchants of all stripes do bear a heavy burden. Boudoir athletes of both sexes have long been subjects of public interest and always will be. Don’t forget, it is incumbent on journalists to keep the facts true, honest and straight.


Readers should be able to believe everything read in public prints, or seen and heard over the wireless. Of course, lots of stories do make us wince or cry. Names make news.


A mother stormed down to a daily paper and cancelled her “prescription.” The clerk corrected and said you mean “subscription.” “Whatever,” the unhappy momma said. “You always misspell my son’s name.”


That was when the daily paper cost five cents, gasoline was 25 cents and journalistic troublemakers included Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson, Quentin Reynolds, Jimmy Breslin, Earl Wilson and J. J. Hunsecker.


I should have included these names, Dorothy Parker, Mary McCrory, and William Randolph Hearst. Maybe another time


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