By Rick Fromm
By Rick Fromm

    Had a lengthy discussion with a friend I like and respect despite our political differences the other day and I was a bit taken aback by some of his comments.

He is a man who is extremely involved politically and makes it a point to participate in meetings and other gatherings in order to express his opinion. Is he on the conservative side of the fence? That’s an understatement.

As we normally do, our talk covered a wide range of topics, but it all centered around the current political unrest in America and why we can’t do something to turn it around. I think the vast majority of our citizens feel the same way.

One of the major points he wanted to make was the fact that, despite one’s political persuasion, we all want pretty much the same thing: peace, harmony, a government we can trust and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. We both agreed that the people of this great nation are as “divided” as they’ve been in quite some time, but neither of us had a valid solution that would solve the problem immediately.

But he stated unequivocally that one of the biggest reasons for this national divisiveness is the job the mainstream media is doing … or not doing. As a journalist myself, I’ve grown tired of this worn-out and unfounded refrain about what a poor job this nation’s primary news sources are doing, but I remained silent and let him continue.

“Just look at the coverage being given to Hurricane Harvey in Texas,” he said. “There are white people, black people, Hispanics, Muslims, Asians and everyone else in between who could care less about what a person looks like or what they believe in and are focused instead on the more important task at hand – helping the victims of Harvey survive in the wake of unbelievable devastation. Why doesn’t that ‘working together’ aspect get reported? Why is the news only about the damage and destruction caused by this massive hurricane? That plays a huge role in keeping the people of this nation at odds.”

I’ll admit that the big-time media moguls have more than a slight tendency to stress the “negative” when things of this nature occur, but I thought his observations about the coverage of Hurricane Harvey were more than a bit off base.

“Is that what you really think?” I asked. “I would beg to differ – strongly.

“The vast majority of television and newspaper stories I’ve seen and read on what’s going on in southern Texas have been about the incredible job people of all nationalities and political persuasions who have set their differences aside in order to help their fellow man/woman and child. I would venture a guess that 85-90 percent of the stories reported on the major television networks were positive stories about the incredible display of love and compassion by thousands upon thousands of volunteers.

“I thought the mass media did a phenomenal job of showing America and the world how we come through for each other when the chips are really down.”

 My friend’s reply was short, terse and to the point.

“Okay, then why do you think this nation is so divided and unsettled right now?” he stated. “If it’s not the media reporting ‘fake news’ that’s causing it, then what is?”

“For what it’s worth, I firmly believe it’s caused by the dumbing down of America,” I said. “People are just too lazy or apathetic to find out what the ‘real news’ is. More than that, I’m not sure they care. They refuse to take the time to discern what’s ‘real news’ and what isn’t. And it’s a cancer that’s spreading rapidly and has the potential to bring this nation to its knees. I contend the average person on the street doesn’t take the time to learn what the ‘real story’ is … especially if the ‘fake news’ is more in line with what they want to hear.”

Our chat ended rather abruptly after that, and we shook hands as he departed … as the old saying goes, we agreed to disagree.

But our insightful talk did convince me more than ever that it’s time for Americans to wake up and do their homework. Quit blaming everyone and everything else for this country’s shortcomings.

The answer is in the mirror. Period.