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posted: 3/22/2012 2:42 PM

Talk with the Editor: O'Reilly's wrong, but censoring is right?

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  • Bill O'Reilly

    Bill O'Reilly


Several nuggets to bring up today:

Nugget #1: Earlier this week, I noted on Facebook that Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly said the "mainstream media" refuses to acknowledge that Mitt Romney is the inevitable GOP nominee because the press wants Rick Santorum to be nominated out of a belief he'd be easier for Barack Obama to beat.

For the most part, I respect O'Reilly, but he really crossed the line with that.

First, I don't know how he missed all the press references to Romney's likely nomination.

But second, and more to my point, no one in the profession that I know of engages in calculated kingmaking, and it is reckless for O'Reilly to suggest otherwise. Absolutely reckless and harmful.

Can members of the "mainstream media" be affected by biases? Sure, just like anyone can. But if so, those effects are subconscious, not manipulative.

There are so many great things about the Information Age, but one of the troubling aspects, it seems to me, is how often unsubstantiated claims are stated as facts. The assertion by O'Reilly is just the latest example. It's not a right or left thing; these imaginary truths seem to fall from every direction.

It is more important than ever to be discerning in our consumption of news and information.

Nugget #2: In the discussion of online commenting last week, someone said that in deleting comments that violate the TOS agreement and in trying to create a more civil environment for discussion, what we're really doing, ironically enough, is censorship.

That's a fascinating topic, mainly because there is more than an element of truth to the charge.

We are, in effect, censoring someone's freedom to use expletives or insults in the online conversation. If someone wanted to advocate, say, child prostitution, we would censor that too.

Yes, it's not an anything-goes conversation, and to that extent, there is censorship involved.

That doesn't make it wrong. But it does make it tenuous ground. The kinds of things we aim to censor make sense to censor. But we need to be mindful that it's a slippery slope, that once you censor one thing, it's easier for the censorship to slip into other things.

Fundamentally, however, our intentions really are akin to editing, not to censoring.

Nugget #3: I have to tell you, one of the most thrilling times in a newsroom is election night, when all the news comes crashing in at the last minute. The electricity of the night is difficult to describe. So many of the races were over early this election that it wasn't quite that exhilarating this time, but still, it's different from most nights.

But even when it's calm like it was Tuesday night, I'm reminded of what a great group of people work here. Let me offer some particular kudos to Executive Editor Madeleine Doubek, Politics and Projects Writer Kerry Lester and Assistant News Editor Michelle Holdway, some of the primary architects of our election coverage. But they're just the tip of the newsroom iceberg. There are so many marvelous people here that it is my joy to work with.

• (We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility ... Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen)

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