Objectivity in the 24-hour News Era

Both biases and objectivity have their place in the news. Everyone sees the world through a different lens, and I might even say objective journalism is unattainable in our 24-hour news cycle; however, objective information testing and evaluation is not.

Objectivity, like any skill, must be practiced and can be improved. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Philip Patterson,

“It would be ideal for both sides to either be equally happy or equally outraged at the finished product.”

While it is not realistic to think our 24-hour news era can make every player content, most of the time it should be the goal that everything is reported accurately and impartially.

Biases are not always a bad thing. They could bring passion in investigative journalism. Alternatively, some news stations thrive on the credulity of their audiences. Most people don’t watch the news objectively. Even if facts are presented objectively, it’s human nature to put a subjective meaning to it.

The news industry is becoming more of an entertainment industry, leaning one way or the other as a successful business model. Arguing is entertainment, and entertainment is money.

We make objectivity much harder than it has to be. Third party evaluation is important in journalism, and any sensible national news station should have a third party check system. Developing a consistent and reliable way for testing cultural and personal biases and keeping them out of the way is one way to achieve balance.



Freedom Measured by Vulnerability

What happens when constitutional freedom and safety conflict?

Benjamin Gitlow was a member of the Socialist party and a business manager for The Revolutionary Age newspaper in 1925. He, alongside three others, were charged under New York’s Criminal Anarchy Law of 1902 for publishing “Left Wing Manifesto” in the newspaper he worked for. The writings called for establishing socialism through strikes and class action.

His trial followed the Red Scare of 1919 and 1920. This was a time when many leftists – anarchists, Bolshevik Revolution sympathizers, labor activists, communists, or socialists – were convicted under the Espionage and Sedition Acts. The country and the Court were caught up in an anti-German hysteria. Whenever society feels vulnerable to such emotion, freedom suffers. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist stated,

“[SCOTUS] has often interpreted the law differently in wartime than in peacetime.”

I believe the manifesto plainly advocated and called to action the accomplishment of the Communist Revolution through riots and force. I agree with the following court decision to uphold conviction at this time when the threat of anarchy was so present. I think freedoms should be preserved, but I also believe in being responsible in exercising those freedoms.

Petitioner’s defense was that the writing was a historical analysis rather than advocacy of capitalism collapsing. He argued that the state’s criminal anarchy law violated his freedom of expression protected under the First Amendment.

By proposing appeal, Gitlow asked SCOTUS to reverse precedents under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause that requires protection of liberty guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Court had to decide if it wanted to review a challenge to a state law on the means that it contradicted the federal constitution.

SCOTUS took the case to consider the question: Is the New York Criminal Anarchy Law that punishes advocacy to violently overthrow the government a violation of free speech under the First Amendment?

The New York court ruled that anyone who advocated the doctrine of violent overthrow violated the law. On a 7-2 decision for New York, the majority upheld conviction, ruling that free speech does not shield Gitlow from the state law. Based on the rationale of the “dangerous tendency test,” a state may forbid speech or publication if it might result in dangerous action even if the danger isn’t clear or present. The majority stated:

“A state in the exercise of its police power may punish those who abuse this freedom by utterances inimical to the public welfare, tending to corrupt public morals, incite to crime, or disturb the public peace.”

Gitlow lost his own appeal but struck a win by causing SCOTUS to rewrite rules concerning free expression at the state level, requiring states to respect freedom of speech, religion, and press. This is the first time the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause holds state and federal governments at the same standard of regulating free speech, known as the incorporation doctrine. This precedent made two landmark cases possible: Near v. Minnesota and New York Times v. Sullivan.

Gitlow nearly reversed the precedent set by Baltimore v. Barron, which held that the Bill of Rights only applied to the federal government. This began a trend toward nearly every constitutional provision applying to both federal and state government.

Recently in McDonald v. City of Chicago, SCOTUS found the Second Amendment to be a fundamental right of all law-abiding citizens over 21 and that it is “fully applicable” in every state. Justice Oliver Holmes argued that the writings present no danger to violently overthrow the government.

Sources: Media Law by Overbeck; Wikipedia: “Gitlow v. New York” and “Schenk v. New York” Gitlow v. New York ((1925) 268 U.S. 652 found at oyez.org; All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime by Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Unanswered Questions about Balancing Freedom of the Press and National Security

U.S. v Progressive (1979) is an often overlooked case that dramatized the conflict between freedom of the press and the need for national security. The U.S. Department of Energy sued The Progressive, a liberal magazine, because of Howard Morland’s article, “The H-Bomb Secret: How We Got It, Why We’re Telling It.” Based on the law of equity, the DOE sought temporary injunction and the government thwarted publication with a restraining order. Even though Morland wrote the article based on public sources, the government thought they should stop publication because it contained information of sensitive nature. Soon after the lawsuit arose, government lawyers ruled it moot it because Milkweed published it. They dropped the case because they could only lose here; they could no longer censor the atom bomb information, and they did not want to lose their privilege to pull back information and classify it.

In addition, the question of prior restraint in this case remains unanswered. Generally, prior restraint has been widely unconstitutional as exemplified in the Pentagon Papers case. However, in U.S. v Progressive, the Atomic Energy Act specifically allowed for injunctions. This was basically a free pass for the government to reclassify anything they wanted. I think Morland had a right to have his works published. He was seeking a critical public debate—something the First Amendment should protect. His political ideas were unfavorable to the government and appeared to be on a trajectory to prior restraint. I believe when Congress says they shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, it includes prior restraint. We have to balance our free speech with the protection of national security; however, I have to wonder at what point the “classified” documents become cover-ups for what is really politically embarrassing or deceptive. It’s shocking to me that SCOTUS considered prior restraint in this case, because Near v. Minnesota declared it unconstitutional. There are few circumstances that government censorship should be considered, such as obscenity around children or imminent danger. I want the opportunity to hear all differing opinions. I believe in seeking truth, not just ideas that complement mine. I am thankful we live in a land of subsequent punishment because ideas should at least have the opportunity to be heard before we determine whether or not they should be punished.

SOURCES: Wikipedia: “U.S. v. Progressive,” Encyclopedia.com, law.justia.com

Facts are Pieces, Truth is the Completed Puzzle

Factual news is not true if it is presented in false light.

In Edwards v. National Audubon Society (1976), a group of scientists has special interest in a pesticide company. In their research, they cited the Audubon Society’s own findings, saying their data “shows steady increase in bird sightings despite the growing number of pesticides in the last thirty years.”

While it is a fact bird sighting may have increased, it is not necessarily true that birds have increased, according to the Society, which says the statistics are presented in a false light.

Reporters should always share what they know to be true. They don’t have to come out and say the accuser is wrong or lying, however they should present both sides of the story so the reader can determine where the truth lies.

Democracy thrives on an objective truth. If ethics is what keeps the social contract theory together, it is for the good of everyone that a journalist reports objective truth. Facts can be misleading. False light is just as bad as lying.

SOURCES: Wikipedia: “Neutral Reportage,” “Edwards v. National Audubon Society,” law.justia.com

Court Protection on Freedom of Expression

The decisions in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, Socialist Party v. Skokie, Cohen v. California, Texas v. Johnson, U.S. v. Eichmann, and Virginia v. Black all share a common denominator: court protection of freedom of expression. In each of these cases, from 1971 to 2003 and with two different supreme court justices, it doesn’t matter how distasteful the expression, the Court voted – often divided – to protect it.

I think the Court has a firm grasp on the importance of a free exchange of ideas in each of these cases. I find it interesting that in each of these court cases, the chief justice at the time was in the dissent.

In Cohen v. California, with Chief Justice Burger dissenting, Justice John Harlan writes,

“States cannot censor their citizens in order to make a ‘civil’ society… People bring passion to politics, and vulgarity is simply a side effect of a free exchange of ideas – no matter how radical they may be.”

If this went the other way, I would fear my Christian beliefs might be considered offensive to some, making my expression limited. It is a slippery slope and I am glad I can exercise my Christian faith in an open exchange of ideas.

I don’t want someone with more influence censoring what I can and cannot say. I welcome challenges to my beliefs. When beliefs are challenged, we grow.

Things get heavier eight years later in Socialist Party v. Skokie when the National Socialist Party announces its march through the village of Skokie. Without considering long-term consequences, it would be difficult to rationalize how the Court could protect the right to wear a Nazi uniform and bear the symbol associated with gross racial hierarchy in years prior. SCOTUS, in these decisions, recognizes the connection between free expression and a vibrant democracy.

Even under media scrutiny, the Court still says we don’t need the government to dictate truth. 

This mantra is most prominent in the highly scrutinized flag burning cases. People got emotional with these decisions, baffled that the Court “sided with flag burners.” I think it is particularly ironic that there was so much pandemonium, and people wanted more regulations for the flag – the symbol of American freedom. Even President Trump mentioned outlawing flag burning.

As Justice Anthony Kennedy said,

“The flag protects even those who hold it in contempt.”

Because the majority of Americans support a ban on flag burning, Congress considered various flag protection amendments. I would note what Justice Antonin Scalia said,

“A Constitution is not meant to facilitate change. It is meant to impede change, to make it difficult to change.”

If this were not the case, a constitutional convention would certainly be underway. We can’t change the constitution with our changing society unless there is compelling interest. It would weaken its authority.

In the first flag burning case when the unusual majority votes in favor of Johnson, the flag burner, Kennedy says the flag “is constant in expressing beliefs,” and that the case “forces recognition of the costs to which those beliefs commit us.”

Soon after Congress passes the Flag Protection Act of 1989, the Court strikes it down as unconstitutional in U.S. v. Eichmann, once again the telling decision reinforces the Constitution’s clear First Amendment protections.

Two years after Chief Justice William Renquist votes twice against flag burning, he joins the majority in a decision to protect cross burning in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul and again in Virginia v. Black. Justice Clarence Thomas argued that cross burning should never be protected by the First Amendment based on its historical association with terrorism, but the Court once again votes for more freedom to express.

In all of these cases, SCOTUS rules that the government cannot strike down the expression of an idea because they find it distasteful. With the exception of a breach of peace, the Court is revealing a trend in its decisions on freedom of expression. The hard choices they face on the bench are bound by the Constitution, not society. In a marketplace of free ideas, some say the best will emerge.

SOURCES: Wikipedia: “Cohen v. California,” “National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie,” “Texas v. Johnson,” “U.S. v. Eichmann,” “Virginia v. Black,” “R.A.V. v. St. Paul”

Parallels: Christianity & Running

Running has irrefutable parallels to Christianity. 


At some point, these parallels became perpendicular; I let running break the focus of my Christian race. Spending all weekend at a track meet made it very easy to become selfish with my rare free time. I hadn’t had a free Saturday in three and a half years. Did I forget the one who gave me that time? The one who gave me that talent and every opportunity I’ve ever had?

Hebrews 12:1″Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

As the Hebrew writer indicates, the Christian race requires endurance and steadfastness. There are countless lessons I’ve learned on the trail, track, or treadmill that parallel the Christian life. 

If I don’t put in the work, I don’t get stronger. After four months without running after completing my final cross country season, I still expected to run a decent marathon. What could have been a four-hour race was an extremely unpleasant five and a half hour race. I would have had a much better experience if I prepared.

My faith isn’t going to get strong if I don’t put in the work.

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.” -Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner

I expect the best results without prioritizing the things that will get me there. I know when I’m not giving it my all in preparation, yet I still hope for a PR when I put my training to the test. 

I expect to have a strong faith without spending time studying or praying.

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” -David Bly

Be zealous, but beware of burnout. The 10 percent rule has been engrained into my brain. “To avoid injury and burnout, do not increase mileage by more than 10 percent each week.” But it happens every year: I watch Rocky 4, hear the perfect running song, witness a record break, or find a sudden gust of inspiration, and I increase speed, intensity, and volume, thinking this time I can handle it. My current onset of plantar fasciitis is a good testimony to the inevitability and fatality of that pattern.

With a strike of spiritual conviction or burst of realization, I see that I need to do more. Instead of taking baby steps, I think I must read the entire Bible in a week or be as well-versed in scripture as someone with a master’s in Biblical proportions.

“Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58

Harsh conditions are unavoidable. Runners will endure rain, snow, heat, and wind. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably not doing it right.

Persecution in the lives of Christians will come.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12

In my weakest moments, I am my strongest. The end of a race: you exhaust every muscle, endure every hill, sweat out electrolytes, deplete glycogen storages, flood your body with lactic acid, and exert more mental brain power than a chess match. You might be physically weak, but it is because of your strength that you are capable of running and reaching the finish.

I don’t have to rely on my inadequate strength because it is in my weaknesses that God’s power is revealed.

“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Comparison will ruin you. Not all runners train the same, race the same, or have the same genetic makeup. It used to shatter my confidence to look at other girls’ training logs to see that they logged more miles than me that week until I realized everyone has different training needs. Every time I lined up for the start of the 10K, I was nearly a foot taller than every other runner. I used to hate it and question whether or not I should be standing there. Then I realized I am just as capable of dominating those 25 laps as the runner next to me. Running is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being a runner. 

Comparing my faith with someone else’s is no way to build myself or them up.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” -Henry Ford

When I don’t see results, I lose patience and wonder if all the hard work is even worth the trouble. There is very little instant gratification when you are training. Results do not come overnight.

Sometimes I lose sight of the Christian goal and want to give up. The reward is not on earth.

“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform our best.” Michael Johnson

I don’t always want to obey what I don’t understand. There were some things my coach told me to do that I didn’t understand. For a while, I thought running two miles before a race was the dumbest thing I had ever heard of. As I matured, I realized how much better I race after warming up my muscles, loosening the joints, and increasing blood flow. It prevents injury and enhances performance. My coach had my best interest in mind.

Sometimes I don’t understand God’s instructions, but I must still let down my nets.

“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” Luke 5:5-6

I run to win. Unfortunately, trophies are fleeting.

By faith, I live with purpose and direction as I strive to be like the victor and receive the eternal prize.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly…” I Corinthians 9:24

The internal struggle is a lot worse than the physical struggle. Running is a constant argument between your brain wanting to stop and your heart wanting to keep going. If you let them, inner demons will strip away every ounce of morale you have.

Don’t underestimate Satan in spiritual warfare.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

I never regret when I do, but always regret when I don’t. It’s easy to skip runs and find “easier” things to do. But it’s always worth it in the end.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 1 Timothy 4:7

Media Bias or Subjective Strategy?

The New York Times is making regular use of the word “lie” in their headlines about President Trump. It started with the “birther lie,” then in January it was the “election lie,” and now it’s the “Comey lie.”  Is the media crying wolf or perhaps carelessly exposing their bias?

If you replace the word “lie” with “falsehood,” the headlines don’t seem as subjective. If they can prove it, they can print it, and I think the Times should call it what their research proves it is, which is, in the case of the birther claim, a false statement. They don’t know it’s a lie because they don’t know his intent.

“Lie” should be saved for special circumstances. It could be justified for when Bill Clinton told a lie. If they had proof that Trump knew he was giving false statements, then the word would be appropriate. I think the headline crossed an objective line, however, I can see why the editors chose the wording; Trump uses hyperbolic language, and he gets a lot of attention for what he says. Perhaps the editor knew what he was doing when he crossed these lines of objectivity. He may have thought he had to start speaking Trump’s language if he wanted to be heard the way he is. This was likely a strategic decision on the editor’s behalf, but I still would have saved it for the opinion page.

Each time they use the word, it chips away at their credibility and objectivity. If it’s true journalism, they don’t need to take a political stance in their headlines.

They faced competing duties: a concerned citizen and an objective journalist. If the writers stayed true to their duty as objective journalists, they wouldn’t have used the word.