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Black and white and read all over

Register • Apr 6, 2014 at 7:50 PM

I wonder if this paper’s readers realize how special the Sandusky Register truly is.

It is one of a handful of news operations that actually goes out and investigates incidents rather than relying solely on officials’ reports and news releases.

If you’ve been reading this paper for the last few years, you’ve learned a lot about the corruption and injustice that seems to permeate the area.

Most papers are afraid to disturb the status quo. It’s easier to report on Joe Blow’s giant pumpkins, Miss Brown’s fourth-grade class that collected 100,000 soda can tabs and other equally important matters than it is to get into a scrap with the powers that be. When faced with opposition, most news operations today back down.

The Register is different. Figuratively speaking, when the paper runs into a stone wall, instead of giving up, it returns with a ladder. The tenacity of this paper is amazing, considering the power of those it is taking on.

Threatened with lawsuits and even actual physical harm, Matt Westerhold and his staff don’t back down — they take their efforts to the next level. I’m sure there are dozens of officials in Sandusky County that would be delighted if the Register turned into a typical American newspaper, filling its newshole with entertainment, sports, quirky stories and reader-provided fluff at the expense of any real journalism.

Most news operations today shun investigative reporting. It’s costly. It causes anxiety and sleepless nights. It exposes things those in power would rather not have exposed. What passes as reporting today are he-said, she-said articles, where both sides present their views and no attempt is made to find out what is really true.

With this kind of reporting, one side could be lying through its teeth, but the reader or viewer will never know it, because the lies get equal credence as the truth.

Viewers and readers have been conditioned not to question anything, but to blindly accept the drivel fed them. Many fall for it, tuning in or reading only those things with which they agree. Watch the same event reported on Fox News and CNN and you’ll see two versions of the story, usually completely contradicting each other.

Which one is right? Who cares? Just so you agree with what you’re watching.

Internet news sites allow you to tailor the news so you only read what you’re interested in, and in most cases, it’s celebrity-driven gossip, ideological ranting, recipes, videos of people doing stupid things, cute animal stories, tales of waitresses getting extraordinary tips and other matters of crucial importance.

Who wants to view or read impartial news? It’s SO boring. We’d much rather watch the latest Miley Cyrus video and read countless stories about who is offended about what and why. And then we comment. Oh boy, do we comment.

So much so, in fact, that reporters’ jobs are transforming from the reporting of facts to posting and tweeting things aimed at stirring up controversy.

The (Portland) Oregonian is a prime example. After massive newsroom layoffs, reporting has taken a back seat to press releases, links to other media outlets, reader-provided copy and the all-important reader comments.

Under The Oregonian’s new policy, beat reporters must post at least three times a day to Oregonianlive.com   and must increase their number of posts by 40 percent in the next year.

Worse, reporters are told they must stir up online conversations. The policy states: “On any post of substance, reporter will post the first comment. Beat reporters (must) solicit ideas and feedback through posts, polls and comments on a daily basis”

Great. So now everyone will be commenting on things they know nothing about. Comments and opinions, after all, trump facts in today’s world of “journalism”

The goal apparently is to replace factual information with opinion, and then ultimately control that conversation. No one wants truth, they just want to read things that they agree with. And our media — almost all owned by major corporations who often have their own fingers in the pies that need investigating, directly or indirectly — is happy to oblige.

In the midst of all this dumbingdown of the news and outright brainwashing is a courageous, hard-hitting newspaper that wants its readers to know the truth, that wants to expose the corruption and good-old-boy networks that is so pervasive.

The Sandusky Register doesn’t behave the same as other news organizations. When police refuse to release information, the paper keeps digging. If the stonewalling continues, the Register exposes it for all to see. The more officials try to cover something up, the harder the Register fights to bring it to the light of day.

Look carefully at the paper you hold in your hands, and savor what you have. It is remnant of a day when journalists investigated stories, didn’t take no for an answer and refused to be cowed and intimidated by those in power.

We used to hear about “the power of the press” Actually, the power of the press is the power of the public — make enough readers aware of an outrage, and you’ll have plenty of support to tackle it.

Most newspapers willingly abdicate that power. The Register uses it to full advantage not only for its readers, but for the communities it covers.

The Register is practicing real investigative journalism.

Cherish it before it’s gone.

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