Last week, What’s It All About, Alfie?  asked what to do about a friend who was laboring under the dangerous misconception that the things she heard in the news were actually true. She wanted to know what, if anything, she could tell this friend to alleviate the situation.

We do have some responses today, so I’ll get right to them. It’s nice to know that whatever the topic, we have readers who are more than happy to help people out:

Of course the news lies to us. Excuse me, they put their own spin on the story in order to tell us what they want us to know to get our subscription (they are a business, after all) and to sell and promote the politics and morals they deem correct.

Never stick with reading just one newspaper! With the internet, it is easy to read multiple news services and get an idea of several sides of one story. If you live in a city with more than one daily newspaper, read them both – the internet is great for this! Here in Salt Lake City I would not make my mind up on a local decision without reading both the Deseret News and the Tribune and then finding the balance somewhere in between.

Read the very conservative as well as the very liberal and try to find the balance. Both sides are telling you what they want you to know, and you will be surprised at how different the story is from either viewpoint. Just remember the old saying: There are three sides to every story – yours, mine, and the truth.

Then, just for fun, start reading new services from outside your country and see what they report about your country. This can be an eye-opener! As a military member, I was overseas for many presidential elections, and it was startling to see how the candidates were being reported, as an example, by BBC as opposed to any U.S. paper. BBC had facts and figures during those specific elections that appeared to be more factual than any U.S. new service cared to report.

When it comes to politics, I especially like to turn to web pages that do fact checking. They dig into the records and tell you who is actually telling facts and who is not. Whether or not they are also telling the truth – who knows?

By the way, a lot of people are skeptical about the news media these days. Even Clark Kent has quit working for the Daily Planet .

Bruce Forbes

Kearns, Utah

Thanks for your input, Bruce. I agree that you’ll get a better picture if you get your news from multiple sources, and I’m glad you reminded us of the quote about there being three sides to every story. As for the news about Clark Kent – say it ain’t so!

KSL’s Doug Wright pointed out one major problem with political reporting recently: quotes are often taken out of context and spun by the opposition to have the worst possible meaning. He gave a good example of a recent Romney “lie,” and it was a good reminder that we must always consider the source (reporter) of the quote and see if we can determine the backstory.

It helps to also think about how we would like to be reported or remembered ourselves – is it possible that someone who dislikes us could damn us in a biography by reporting only selective events, quotes, and situations as people have done with Joseph Smith, among others? In the end, we need to let God be the judge of character and be our own judge of political choices.

There’s a good website  that will compare one’s political views with those of the candidates without using the spin of the media. It’s very educational, in that we may be closer to some of the candidates than we would like to admit.

Nancy Hardman

Thanks for the link, Nancy. There are two things I’m a sucker for in this column – a helpful list and a link to a good website.

This is an issue that I have given a lot of thought to.
I see so many times in news articles on politics, quotations from public figures that could be summarized as “If you do not agree with me, there is something wrong with you.” That “something wrong” could be, “you are ignorant” or “you are uninformed” or “you are a mean, hateful person” or some such.

Nowhere in their vocabulary is there room for “agree to disagree,” it seems. And don’t assume I am talking about any particular political party because I have seen these comments come from both sides of the political spectrum.

I think that there is a natural tendency in people to assume that every normal, thoughtful person would come to the same conclusions: “mine.” This explains the perceived bias in news organizations: they are biased. The reporters see anything outside of their biases as strange and newsworthy, while they can’t see how biased they really are.

That means, of course, that I am biased, too. I recognize that, but I am still working on overcoming my suspicions and prejudices against people with different perspectives. It’s a long process.

Complicating that, or maybe because of it, I’m not sure, the Internet has made it possible for everyone to have a voice, and the more extreme and loud you are, the more attention you get. This has caused, I think, a polarization in our political system. Each side complains about how they can’t get something done because the other side won’t work with them, when, in truth, neither side wants to compromise in order to get something done instead of nothing at all, in part because they would be excoriated by political bloggers for “abandoning their principles.”

Now, what to do about it? First, remember that Heavenly Father loves all His children. That includes Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, citizens of other countries, black, white, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, old, young, men, women, children, straight, gay, transgendered, Jew, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, Catholic, Protestant, and He even loves Attila the Hun, Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin. Everyone deserves respect, at least, as a child of God.
Second, we need to respect the fact that intelligent, thoughtful people can look at social and economic problems and legitimately come to well-thought-out but very different conclusions. That doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong. None of us knows definitively what the future holds. I’m probably right about some things and wrong about other things.   Third, keep this in mind when reading or watching news stories on political topics.

Politics today is full of “spin,” downplaying one candidate’s flaws while trying to magnify the opponent’s. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to read about “the other guy’s” deficiencies, but I need to keep in mind that there is more to the story than what I am seeing.

I try to read news articles from news organizations that are considered liberal as well as ones that are considered conservative, hoping to get a fuller, truer picture than would come from one side alone. I frequently remind myself that I am looking at a biased report of what happened. Be careful about “drinking the Kool-Aid.”
Oh, one more big point may not need reiterating, but I will include it here for the record: It is just a wrong to vote for someone just because he is a Mormon or a Jew or black or green or whatever as it is to vote against him because of those same facts. Find out about his/her positions on issues and compare them to your own, then vote accordingly. After all, both Mitt Romney and Harry Reid are Mormons in good standing.

This isn’t a complete solution, but may be a good start.

Still Working on My Prejudices

Thanks for your thoughts, Still Working. Whenever I hear of somebody voting for Mitt Romney just because he’s a Latter-day Saint, I always wonder if he’d vote for Harry Reid. However, I can see somebody voting for a Latter-day Saint if the candidate would carry Latter-day Saint values with him into office. (That’s not to cast aspersion on Harry Reid, mind you. He just happens to be in the same paragraph.)

All of the media reporting seems to me a mass of confusion. I feel like Joseph Smith when he talks about multitudes uniting themselves to the different (political) parties, which creates no small stir and division among the people, some crying lo, here, and others, lo, there.
He describes that any good feelings for one another were entirely lost in a strife about words and a contest about opinions.
I feel that I am a person (not that young, or completely unacquainted with men or things) that is experiencing a trial of coming to a certain conclusion of who is right and who is wrong. And if they are all wrong, what are we to do?
I know how I feel, and what I have observed about President Obama, and have already determined not to vote for him.
The difficulty is about Mitt Romney. There is so much conflicting information about him, and the widely held idea that all the Mormons will vote for him just because he is a Mormon. That does make me laugh.

My son-in-law frequently posts links to information about Romney and conspiracy theories and so on. I thought I should give it a fair shot, so I tried reading some of that, to educate myself. It made me feel almost physically ill. I had to stop reading it. I don’t think I can find out for myself if those things are true or not in any academic way.

I can only find out from the Spirit which things are true, and by the spirit of discernment. When I hear Mitt Romney speak, I don’t have a sense that he is lying, or covering up. My sense is that he is generally a righteous, honest man. And that’s what I can go on. In contrast, I have had a very different feeling when listening to several of our past presidents.

It seems to come down to my gut feelings. I’ll just take those with me into the voting booth.

Workerbee in Auburn

Thanks for reminding us, Workerbee, that the Spirit can help us discern the truth. Sometimes I think we neglect the simplest solution to an issue.

To paraphrase a few words from (I think it is) the late Davis Bitton, “I don’t have a testimony of Mitt Romney.” I do have a testimony of The Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith as God’s prophet, of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, of Thomas S. Monson as the God’s mouthpiece on the Earth today, and of other gospel-related issues.

We all know that pithy sayings are much easier than the actual doing, and when I am vexed with someone or something even remotely relative to church, it can be all too easy to let my aggravation trample my faith in its hurry to “show them.” In my rational moments, it’s laughable that I can so easily fall back to sulking like a three-year-old. Worse, I suspect I am not the only one whose inner three-year-old comes up with such gems as:

  • “If they allow Mitt Romney or Harry Reid or __x__ to be a member/hold a recommend or….”
  • “I don’t like what so-n-so said about such-n-such or…”
  • “He/she/it/they did thus-n-such or…”
  • “While he’s bishop or she’s Relief Society president…”
  • “I’ll show them, I just won’t go.” <sticks tongue out and blows a raspberry> “So there!”

I do wish my inner three-year-old would just be quiet, but in the meanwhile, I try to focus on that for which I do have a testimony and to make a mantra out of things like “I don’t have a testimony of…” and “this too shall pass” until I “come to myself” and turn back to my Father. So far, so good. Now for that endurance thing…

Brent Hawks

Hollister, California

I think your inner three-year-old and my inner three-year-old may be related, Brent. They say the same things.

I watched all the 2008 debates and other clips of Obama. I seemed to be able to read between the lines, so to speak. I believe my sister is as intelligent as I am, yet she and a cousin voted for Obama and will again this year. They are not members of our church, though they are very active in their churches.

The gift of the spirit is not something to be flaunted or taken for granted, but I believe it truly helps me in my daily life. Being a convert I can see a great difference in my life on either side.

I also feel I was blessed with discernment in watching people speak. Though it doesn’t always work that way, or I wouldn’t have made some of the mistakes I’ve made. We each have different gifts and can’t judge others by their choices or decisions.

I received an email with a letter someone wrote about seeing the movie 2016 who thought it was scary.They had also voted for Obama, but said they wouldn’t now. I forwarded it to this cousin and sister, but I included a note that stated I would not expect to change their minds, nor was I trying to.

I just wanted them to learn more about the person they were voting for, whether he wins or not.

It is a difficult thing to do to even approach the subject, though we feel at times that we must. I never expect to influence my cousin or sister in their votes. Their world is different than mine. It has always been that way, even before I joined the Church.

Truth Seeker

Thanks for your input, Truth Seeker. I wrote a blog about this very subject last week. Here’s the link .

“Alfie” points out a real problem – a problem that affects every one of us. Long gone are the days when Walter Cronkite could tell us, “And that’s the way it is,” and have us know that we’re getting accurate information from an unbiased, reliable source. Journalistic integrity seems to have fallen by the wayside, the most blatant examples of which are easily seen in the advertisements of the so-called “Super Pacs.”

So, what are we to do? How can we get the “straight scoop” when our media are biased?

The first thing I do is research the so-called “facts” they put out there. What have I found out? Unpleasant as it might be to my Republican friends’ points of view, it appears Obama’s birth certificate is, indeed, genuine. And to the chagrin of my Democrat friends, Mitt Romney is not proposing a $5 trillion tax cut if elected President, as reported.

Which brings me to the second thing I do – question why the opposition is putting out (sometimes blatantly) untrue information.

Finally, I assess the integrity of both men, independent of what the journalists and talk show hosts would have you believe. I want to elect a man to the White House that I can trust.

Since the press cannot always be trusted, it’s up to each of us to review all the facts before giving our vote away. I look at a presidential election as I would a job interview. I want to hire the best man for the job. That means work – real effort on each of our parts – to determine who we’re going to vote for and why. You gotta figure it out for yourself.

Alfie, let your friend know the untruths being spread about Mitt Romney. She should know, so she can base her decision of whom she wishes to vote for on fact, rather than innuendo. But be prepared to hear a few untruths being spread about President Obama. You, too, should make your decision based on facts.

And for those journalists and Super Pacs out there obfuscating the facts, trying to get voters on your side, you might want to consider this: Though many of us would love to affiliate ourselves with one party or the other, the lies and rhetoric you’ve put out make it certain that I and many others will not join you. I hate being lied to, and I have a feeling there are a lot of others that hate it, too.


West Haven, Utah

You’re right, Abeille. Responsible voters have to work to determine which is the right candidate in any race. We can’t let the news media tell us, because they are under no constraints to tell the truth.

I’m not sure but I think it was Mark Twain who said: “There are three kinds of lies – lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

The following is what I found in a book I have. It describes what a true journalist should be. It’s obvious that few in the media, whatever their political persuasion, follow this format. And we are all the poorer for it.

A journalist who prints only the good about a person, issue, thing, belief or political party is just as much a disgrace to his profession as a journalist who prints only the bad about a person, issue, thing, belief or political party. It is not the duty of a true journalist to defend or condemn the acts or morals of men and governments. The true journalist is the voice of the unbiased observer who presents only the facts. The true journalist does not shape the thinking of the people; but only presents the facts so the people may decide the issues themselves. When he omits a single fact, either pro or con, he ceases to be a true journalist. (John D. Fitzgerald, Papa Married A Mormon, Prentice Hall, Inc.,1955, page 68).

 Paul Johnson

Thanks for the great quote, Paul. From what I see of the news media, “true journalists” as defined by John D. Fitzgerald are pretty much extinct. 

Okay, people. We’ll have a new topic this week. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, send your thoughts to [email protected]. DO NOT USE THE FORM ON THIS PAGE, BECAUSE IT RARELY WORKS SO YOU’LL JUST BE WASTING YOUR TIME. No, write an actual email to the email address in this paragraph. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Until next week –


“I hope we never live to see the day when a thing is as bad as some of our newspapers make it.”

Will Rogers 


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