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  • Reverend James Squire

Gotcha

Updated: Feb 14, 2021



When I picked up the Inquirer Sunday Edition (December 6), I was looking for what was happening in our world during these troubling times. What I saw first was at the bottom of the front page. It was a story about a women’s basketball coach who was accused of allegedly being insensitive to her college players and abusive to them by putting them down during practice and requiring them to play when they were injured.


The story was important, However, did it belong on the front page when people are dying in Africa from famine and from tribal and political warfare. We are in the midst of food insecurity and a rising Covid-19 rates and an ongoing political nightmare with inaccurate comments being made about the election of President Elect Biden threatening the core of our democracy. I could have responded to the story about the coach better if it was in the sports section. Was the story necessary for me to be an informed citizen?


I read the article and the first thought that I had was how does the team, school, coach, and parents make something positive come out of this negative experience. The coach has not been fired but she is now “toast”.


The press is essential to our democracy by printing the facts, but what about “the greater good”. In this case, a team, coach, parents, and school, are trying to make something positive happen with this dilemma and possible lessons learned by everyone including the coach. We have lost something in our news coverage. The story gives credence to a former editor of the Inquirer who told me and a group of students that he got the biggest response to a story he wrote about municipal incompetence. He said, “The response is what counts. It doesn’t matter if it is bad or good.” This is the attitude that fosters “gotcha” news.


The press complains constantly about President Trump, and he complains bitterly about them. Where would he be without the press even though he refers to them as fake news? Where would the press be without him? They are a marriage made in heaven or, perhaps I should say, in hell. He makes for outrageous gotcha news with fact checkers highlighting his lies, and the press is right there to capture every one of his many mistakes. President Elect Biden has been putting together his new team. I was struck by how many people in the media are already saying that he and his appointees are boring. They go on to say that they love boring after four years of chaos. Do they really? The readers may relish “boring”, but I don’t believe that the press will.


A “gotcha” mentality could be the ruin of us and folks like the local basketball team that needs to figure out if there is a way to move forward.


Let me suggest two people who could serve as models for moving forward with responsible reporting. I was struck by what Fareed Zakaria, American journalist, wrote recently about President Obama. Zakaria said that Obama is different. He doesn’t ask questions that he knows the answers to. He genuinely wants to know the answer to his question. He went on to say that other politicians know the answers to questions they ask. Politicians wait for the other person to respond so they can then say what they think with a voice of authority that leaves no doubt that they are right. I can honestly not remember President Obama asking someone a “gotcha” question. He respects others in his response even those who disagree with him. His children don’t ask him questions at the dinner table for he gives them an answer that is worthy of someone’s time. They also don’t like their dinner interrupted by long responses.


Second, one of my favorite news journalist is Michael Smerconish, now a talking head on CNN. He is a former parent to three guys who attended the Episcopal Academy. First and foremost, you can’t put him in a nice tidy box with a label such as Liberal or Conservative. He is his own person. H is a registered Independent. He and I would exchange occasional emails with one another after I read his Inquirer column that he use to write. He was also a great parent at our school and someone who cares deeply about people. (Full disclosure: I am biased for I know how helpful he was behind the scenes to a family that are close friends of mine.)


If you watch him on CNN now, he is mostly giving commentary on an issue. However, he interviewed President Obama on 6 different occasions. Why would President Obama consent to 6 interviews with a person? Mike was the first radio broadcaster as well invited to conduct a presidential interview inside the White House after Obama’s election. Mike is asking questions that he genuinely wants to know the answers . Second, he treated President Obama with great respect. In fact, I can’t imagine Mike interviewing a homeless person any differently.


A commentary on those interviews that Mike did with President Obama said it all. The commentary read, “They were civil and substantive”. That is the kind of news that is newsworthy! That should be what we see on the front page of our newspaper so a team and a coach have an opportunity to move forward. There is that expression to remind us what we should be hearing and reading, “all the news that is fit to print”.


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