Columns » Semi-Native

Let's give peace (and media) a chance




You know something I don't.

Since the Independent went to press at lunchtime on Election Day, you almost certainly know who the next president of the United States will be as you read this. (Unless, of course, we're looking at another Bush-Gore situation from 2000, and given the spectacle this election has been, nothing would surprise me.)

Me? I'm writing a few days early, with the television on and a chorus of negative campaign ads running in the background.

The 2016 presidential election made the Netflix series House of Cards feel more like a documentary than Hollywood creation. The fictional Frank Underwood probably received more than a few sincere write-in votes. With a slogan like "FU16," it's a surprise more people didn't jump on the Underwood bandwagon.

In many unbelievable moments, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton showed us the worst in our country. At least I hope it was the worst — though I fear we haven't seen the end of the racism, the misogyny, the hatred.

Whether it's President Trump, President Clinton or President Stein (OK, I know that last one isn't the case), it doesn't matter. We need time to heal.

Healing will involve patience. It will also require that we try to understand and appreciate one another, no matter how different our beliefs. How do we do this? Here's what I'm going to do, though I'm certainly open to more ideas.

First, whoever takes the office in January needs our patience. Believe me, I'm as skeptical as the next about whatever candidate managed to claw her or his way to 270 electoral votes.

But whoever that person is, we need to give that person the chance to do the job every president is elected to do.

I'm not willing to give any politicians free rein, and I won't go as far to say that we need to trust them. That trust must be earned, but we need to give them the chance to earn it.

You know who people need to learn to trust again? Media.

The media took a real beating in this election. But "media" is misleading. Media is made up of journalists. And most journalists I know entered this profession to make a difference, to keep government honest (trust me, it's not for the huge paychecks and glamorous lifestyle). A former editor of mine said it best when she explained that she became a journalist because she had a passion for the truth.

The work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the 1970s was likely the impetus for an entire generation of journalists to pursue the career. Woodward was a keynote speaker at a conference I attended last month in Washington, D.C. A room full of college journalists listened to the 73-year-old's insight after a career of investigative journalism — a career of seeking truth.

Woodward admitted he and Bernstein made mistakes in their pursuit of the Watergate story. "In journalism, it's tentative. It's the best you can do," he said. "You're not going to tell the whole story ever. History's never over."

He recalled his editor, Ben Bradlee, telling them that the truth emerges, but sometimes it takes years or decades. As Woodward continued offering insight, he explained that journalists are of value if they can be trusted as neutral fact-givers.

Are all journalists neutral fact-givers? Clearly not. But media consumers need to find those trusted sources and believe that they are doing the best they can do. Good journalism doesn't simply echo your personal beliefs. It should inform you and challenge you.

We need to hold our politicians and our media accountable. But we also need to give them all the chance to do their jobs.

Maybe they will surprise us. (I mean, the Cubs just won the World Series, so anything is possible.)

Will this heal the wounds of the 2016 election? I'd like to think it's a start.

And if recent history is an indication, we don't have much time to heal before the campaigning for 2020 begins.

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