Maybe I’m a bit of a throwback, but when it comes to debating the issues of the day, my style leans more towards persuasion rather than brute force. I like to build my case point-by-point, parry the objections where I can, and when I can’t, I like to take them away and have a think about them. While I may have gone into the discussion with my mind made up, facts, evidence and arguments may cause me to change my mind.
And that’s a good thing.
Too often, debates move from what should be a free exchange of ideas into a no-holds-barred, zero-sum-game clash for the ages. No quarter is asked and certainly no quarter is given. Two ideas enter, but only one can leave. Win or lose. Kill or be killed.
And that’s a very bad thing.
It’s bad because with that winning-is-everything mentality, the lines between truth and “truth” get blurred. Inconvenient facts get ignored, projections are presented as certainties and counter arguments are dismissed with only the flimsiest of pretexts. Not only that, the tone can range from haughty and superior to ridicule and outright bullying.
And that’s no way to come to a decision in a functioning democracy. It’s supposed to be the rule of the people, not the rule of the loudest.
That’s why newspaper journalism is so important. At our best, we look at every issue the same. We gather all available facts, we talk to experts and supporters from both sides, we do our research and then present what we find to our readers so they can make up their own minds. We have no direct interest in which side is right and which side is wrong. We lose nothing by pointing out the flaws in both arguments. Our job isn’t to advocate, it’s to inform.
As valuable as this is to the community, it doesn’t come without a cost. If you treat any challenge to your beliefs as heresy, you come out guns blazing, often attacking not what was reported, but the fact that it was reported. If I’m wrong about something, I’ll correct it, but if I’m accused of being pro- or anti- something just because I contradicted a “fact,” that says a lot more about the person complaining than it does about the quality of my journalism.
Truth is neutral. Truth doesn’t care if it agrees with your beliefs and desires. Reporting the truth helps the community discuss and debate the important issues of the day fully and with clear eyes.
The ultimate decision on these questions is up to you, but it’s our duty to give you all the information you need to decide for yourself.
— Gordon Cameron is the group managing editor for Metroland’s Hamilton Community News, the Sachem and the Glanbrook Gazette. This column was written as a part of a series for National Newspaper Week on the topic of Champions Of The Truth: The Real Superheroes.