A good reporter tells the reader right up front if he has a bias.
Here's mine for this column: Sometimes I can be a pie-eyed optimist. Obnoxiously so. I'm not sure what the male version of a "Pollyanna" is, but I likely carry the credentials.When I have dreams about going to hell, for instance, they're great: I see snowballs, bells, hand-baskets; and I see a good half-acre of things a-poppin'. In my mind, hell's just an amusement park for adults. Like Las Vegas.
Like I said, I'm optimistic.
That said, you'll understand when I tell you that all the stories in the paper about war in Iraq, African famine and racial uproar, even stories about the environmental crisis here at home make me feel pretty good about things.
But you need to know there's method to the madness.
The method begins like this:
Some months ago KSL reported that Utah County had seen a shocking increase in incidents of child sexual abuse. Officials quickly pointed out, however, that incidents hadn't really gone up. People were simply becoming more aware of the problem and doing a better job of reporting.
Doing a better job of reporting.
Better reporting is the reason it seems the world's going to pot.
Readers often chide newspapers for playing up the bad news; but the fact we report so much bad in the world is really the good news.
At least we know what needs fixing.
Think back to the '50s. People think of the era as a time of tranquility and grace. It was for me - Mickey Mantle on the Yankees, Roy Rogers on TV, Grandma on the weekends. Pretty serene. In fact, I have to remind myself not everyone got invited to the party.
I'd bet some college professors may even be smart enough to realize starvation was killing African children in the '50s just as it is now, that racism in South Africa - and the American South - was out of control; that fishing companies were going after whales, fruit companies were going after Latin American peasants. Even the crime of sexual harassment was a joke.
Think of the cartoons picturing a boss chasing a secretary around the desk.
And it wasn't much before the '50s we finally decided women may be bright enough to vote for or against brilliant politicians like Joseph McCarthy and Spiro Agnew.
And just before that we were permitting people to own other people; to use, abuse and discard them like old rototillers.
I think things are looking up. I'm optimistic about how far we've come. As for the reader out there who thinks I'm painting things a bit rosy - the reader who believes the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is the pessimist has more information - I say, "Give me all the information you got." I'll digest it. It's information about how horrible the world has become that makes me optimistic.
I also have some advice for that disgruntled reader:
Don't pick fights with aging Pollyannas. We'll drive you nuts.