June 20 Socrates Cafe

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Socrates Café on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Our Socrates Café is a place and time for us to get together to exchange thoughtful ideas and experiences in order to learn by pondering the questions and opinions of others.  All political, economic and social points of view are welcomed and encouraged.  The only ground rule is that we will be polite to those opinions that differ from our own.

How Much Can We Trust Our News Sources?

On February 27, 1968 Walter Cronkite, who anchored CBS Nightly News, concluded a special broadcast on the recent Tet Offensive with a rare, brief, and potent editorial suggesting that America cease fighting the Vietnam War. President Lyndon Johnson, some claimed watching, reportedly then turned to aides and said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

Up until that time, Americans were used to getting their news from the three major television channels, ABC, CBS, NBC, as well as a myriad of local newspapers. These reporters shared facts and left interpretation to analysts and columnists. What made Cronkite’s comments particularly devastating was that he was seen as perhaps the icon of factual reporting. Now, we have available to us a plethora of online sources as well as a diminished number of hometown dailies which rely mainly on syndicated news feeds for national and international news with a blurring boundary of reporting and commentary.

We have moved away from an era of a strong wall of separation between news reporting and opinion columnists. Now, we see what can be called “advocacy journalism” instead of reliance on the five questions that were drilled into the heads of earlier reporters: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. An example of these differences today can be seen from looking at the following headlines that appeared in our most widely read newspapers on May 25, 2018:

Wall Street Journal: Trump signs executive orders making it easier for the federal government to fire employees it considers to be poor performers.

New York Times: President Trump signed orders making it easier to fire federal workers. The push reflects conservatives’ wariness of the federal bureaucracy

USA Today: Trump orders take aim at federal labor unions

Washington Post: Trump issues orders aimed at altering civil service protections

Getting accurate and unbiased news can be difficult. Two Points to Ponder seem to be “It is not a good idea to trust a newspaper whose editorial position you can tell from its front page” and “Beware of broadcasting that attempts to influence rather than inform.”

In your opinion, how much can we trust our news sources and how can we ensure that we are getting unbiased reporting instead of spin?

And what are the dangers if we do not?

Robert M. Rubin, Socrates Cafe “Giving Philosophy Back to the People!  Let’s discuss – What is truth?  What is justice? What is moderation?

This session will be lead by Robert Rubin, an Experienced moderator with discussion groups.

Time: 10:30 am – 12:00 pm.
Location: Friends Learning Lab