This morning we had the opportunity to have breakfast with Ray Suarez, a correspondent for the Lehrer News Hour. We ate at the Cosmos Club, in an antique dining room with a worn carpet on the floor and old-fashioned paintings on the walls.
After breakfast we began our interview. What I appreciated most about Mr. Suarez was that he was very truthful with us. He was clear about his beliefs and shared his opinions of the direction he sees journalism heading. He said that many journalists are afraid to say the L-word: LIE. He thinks that it is problematic when journalists will not confront individuals when they state opinion as fact.
He also told us that when making public policy, people should not justify their positions based solely on religion. He said that society has become too diverse for religion alone to be the basis for policy. He brought up the abortion controversy and made the point that not everyone can relate to someone who says that abortion is wrong because their religion tells them so. He said that religion will always influence people’s values but there is no use to try and convince people based off of a religious belief alone.
Ray Suarez had many inspiring things to share with us over breakfast this morning. He was adamant when he said, “We should be in the truth business, but right now we are in the opinion business.” He said that many journalists present two sides of an argument, showing completely contradictory views. They refrain from commenting on whether what each side says is true or pointing out missed facts. This creates an incomplete story for the public to make sense of. The result of this is that most citizens choose to simply believe whichever side of the argument they like more.
This conversation grabbed my interest immediately. I nodded in agreement, recalling times when I have frantically searched the Internet, reading both “sides” of a story, watching the news or listening to the radio to try to make sense of current events. No matter how hard I tried to find the bare facts, all I could do was find opinion. One side of the argument emphasized certain facts while another emphasized others. If it is this difficult for each citizen to find out the true story, then how are they supposed to make educated decisions on their own lives as well as those of others? If the citizens have a distorted view of American society then democracy as we know it has disappeared.
Our conversation with Ray Suarez has inspired me. He said that when he goes to work every day he tries to shed his biases and become an inquirer. That’s his job; to ask questions in search of the truth.