As the impeachment inquiry into President Trump was just beginning, US public television newsreader Judy Woodruff interviewed Democratic Representative Jackie Speier, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, tasked with the impeachment investigation of President Donald J Trump.
Woodruff asked, "Do you think you'll come up with something? (Robert) Mueller investigated Trump for two years and came up with nothing."
Woodruff's mis-characterisation of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election brought an immediate fact-correction from the Congresswoman.
"On the contrary," she said, "the Mueller Report cited 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice and 243 instances of contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia. We'll do our constitutionally required task."
Woodruff's false claim is concerning. At worst, it reflects the "talking points" of Republican supporters of Trump, hence may be evidence of partisanship in a supposedly neutral observer. Or what is almost as bad, ignorance - a failure to do a reporters' basic work, ie. to get the facts straight.
At a time when conventional news sources whether on TV or in newspapers are under attack by those who would spread doubt in order to foster their own personal or political gain, it becomes essential for professional structured news sources to strive harder for accuracy and fact-based reporting. Even editorial writers are not free of an obligation to the facts even though their conclusions from those facts may be an opinion, personal and idiosyncratic.
That last is the basis for my calling attention to a letter (Chronicle, November 1) from one of our local readers, Elaine Hampton.
Hampton took exception to an editorial which appeared in this paper (October 26) sourced only to the NZ Herald. She criticised both the content of the editorial and the fact of its being without signature. In my opinion, her objections are valid on both counts.
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The editorial is clearly written from the perspective of opposition to the End of Life Choice bill, as its use of the politically charged language of "euthanasia" indicates. Euthanasia with its connotation of involuntariness and association with killing animals, has been frequently used by opponents of the bill and it mischaracterises the bill and its purposes.
The unsigned editorial poses a false dichotomy and a truncated description of the right that the bill would create. It is not "the right to die" which the author claims "can threaten another person's right to live."
Neither this bill nor any other existent law recognises a "right to die" - the legalisation of suicide. Instead, the bill seeks to fulfill the dying wish of Lucretia Seales, dignity campaigner and New Zealander of the year 2016, for the right to die with dignity and medical assistance (emphasis mine) - a right to self-determination of the time and manner of a dying person's death.
That right no more affects another person's right to live than has same-sex marriage altered ordinary heterosexual marriage - similar illogic by a similar group of opponents.
Hampton rightly takes issue with the patronising of the editorialist who believes parliamentarians are better equipped, intellectually, to decide this most important issue than the people who elect them and who are the ones directly affected.
In her analysis of the unsigned editorial, Hampton has shown her own capacity for critical thinking that is the basis for good judgment, giving the lie to the disparagement by the editorialist of the thinking ability of our citizens.
Finally, she called attention to the lack of a signature for the editorial. That is a most trenchant criticism. While I would tend to agree with her that a signature would denote responsibility and promote transparency, I have been reliably informed that sourcing of the editorial to NZ Herald is, by conventional denotation, that the editorial represents the position of the Herald as a whole and not that of a single individual. While I find that to be unfortunate it remains a fact for readers to judge accordingly.
( Editor's note: As Jay Kuten notes above, it is standard practice for many newspapers to run unbylined editorials, the views representing not one writer, but the newspaper as an institution.)
• Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.