As is often the case when I feel the need to write opinion pieces, I do not want to have to discuss this, but I think I have some pretty important questions on my mind.
Today, NRI NOW published an excellent piece – in my humble opinion – from contributor Dick Martin on the settlement of the lawsuit brought by parents over Rhode Island’s public school mask mandate. The suit was initiated by parents hailing from our coverage area – Glocester primarily – so I asked Dick write a follow up on the breaking news story I authored earlier this month.
The article comes two full weeks after the settlement – considered a win by those challenging the pandemic-prompted governor’s order – was finalized. And yet, to date, only openly conservative news sources – and us – have published any information on the agreement.
When the litigation was first filed, it was widely publicized as a story with national implications. The parents involved were often subtly portrayed as a fringe political element, sure, but media at least seemed to universally agree at the time that the subject matter was important. Masking – and the local and national government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic – after all, are arguably the most divisive issues of our time.
So I have to ask: Where is the rest of the Rhode Island media on this now? Are they asleep? Still reeling from excessive eggnog consumption? Or is a little, online only, hyper-local source out of northern Rhode Island the only media still willing to cover news from both sides of the political aisle?
I am very proud of NRI NOW‘s adherence to the traditional news principle of non-bias, and very committed to it. But this editor and her small team can’t be the only ones left in the state who care about or understand the principles of journalism.
I’m not naive or blind: of course I know that most national news sources have long abandoned the traditional journalistic code, and that in local media, opinions are often only thinly veiled. That code, like anything, has always been imperfect as it is implemented by writers who are human beings and, inevitably, do have opinions.
But have my peers given up in their mission of informing the public so completely that they are now willing to ignore major developments that don’t fit their narrative?
Or, is the statewide conventional media’s decision to ignore this story based in fear of controversy? Have we, as a society, become so polarized that solid information and developments regarding controversial topics are now avoided completely?
Is conventional media so afraid of alienating its audience that it’s no longer willing to tell the truth?
I don’t want to believe any of those things. I don’t want to think that the era where news had at least some integrity has come to a close.
But can someone – please – offer an alternative explanation regarding the near universal silence on this topic in the news cycle?
As is also often the case with my editorials, these questions come with a plea – and a mission – for our readership: In a polarized world, try to be the exception. Try to bring back that time where truth – not being on the “right” side of a topic – was the ultimate goal. Call on your leaders – and your media – to do the same.
Because as proud as we are of our commitment to delivering the truth beyond politics, it’s getting awfully lonely out here.
Sandy Hall is the founder and editor of Northern Rhode Island News On the Web