How do you find truth in the news?

Frank Yonkof

Every so often, I like to log onto to view the remnants of what used to be a great Web site. A little over a year ago, the Rocky went out of business, weeks shy of its 150th birthday.

Even after a year, I still find myself getting upset when visiting the site. Perhaps it’s because I’m a journalism student who will have to compete for a job in this troubled industry upon graduation. But more than anything, I think it’s a sign of the times. If the Rocky can go under, we are all vulnerable in this economy.

I recently came across one of the features that looked back at some of the featured work they were most proud of. One series followed former nuclear power plant workers who were either sick or dying as a result of the Cold War arms race.

Back in 2000, it was agreed that the government would compensate them, but by the time the series ran in 2008, only one in four workers received aid.

The series included a story about Janine Anderson, who was a secretary at one such plant for seven years. Her prognosis was bleak, and it was determined her liver, which had already swelled to 25 pounds, would eventually burst.

Still, the government denied her claim.

It was only when the Rocky started this series that the public became aware of this atrocity. And for months, the paper continued to print follow-ups, the last one being 23 days before the paper closed. It sure does make you wonder who is looking out for these sick workers now.

That’s why it was upsetting to see the Rocky get shut down. As cliché as it may sound, they just don’t do stories like that nowadays. The Rocky was really one of the few publications that was willing to tackle these issues and demand answers.

Today, news is based too much on ideology and dominated by personalities. Twenty-four-hour news stations and blogs exclusively cater to one political ideology and often spin headlines to better please their base.

This is why it’s so hard to find truth in anything you read. In its nuclear power plant series, the Rocky had the truth. The government claimed responsibility and never delivered on its promise.

But how do you find truth when two ideologues are debating on cable news? Have any of us ever walked away from one of these debates feeling like we’ve learned some vital information?

How many times have we seen a cable news debate and heard the anchor say “All right guys, we will have to leave it there,” after one person makes some outrageous and unverifiable claim? Where is the truth in that?

To blame these media outlets for appealing to a certain political ideology is not completely fair. After all, we as an audience demand to be entertained while watching the news. Just look at Fox News’ ratings to see Americans want this type of news.

As Americans, we enjoy political debate and like to watch it in the context of news, and I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that when we embrace these ideological programs and Web sites, we lose something important, like the Rocky.

Frank Yonkof is a newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected].