I had a short discussion conversation with a young man by way of FaceBook a couple of days ago. The young man is running for the U.S. Congress and made a disparaging statement regarding newspapers in general and The Knoxville News – for which I have written as a freelance Op-Ed columnist for more than 20 years -- in particular.
His contention was that all newspapers are corrupt and he cited as a specific for the Knoxville News Sentinel, that he had been deliberately misquoted. Since I had never heard his name, I looked him up on Google, at which time I discovered his campaign for Congress against an incumbent of more than 20 years. His campaign material was sparse and, as best I could tell, was more about what the incumbent had not done, and very little about what he would do if elected.
I am a champion of underdogs, suicide missions, lost causes and even those who joust with windmills -- if they are serious. It’s hard to view this young man as a serious candidate, in part because I knew nothing about and I make an effort to stay abreast of what’s happening locally and in the world. I am not a fan of those who dabble in order to say they ran, and this candidate also recently ran for the Tennessee Senate without attracting my attention.
My first impulse was to tell him via FaceBook that the Knoxville News Sentinel is quick to correct errors if and when they come to the attention of the editors. I could also have told him that nobody in the news media is interested enough to misquote him deliberately, even if they wished to do so, but I didn’t.
What I did was point out that simplistic generalizations are for the simplistic and that as a freelancer, the News Sentinel has the option of printing or not printing my column, but no input as to what I write. He responded by saying I shouldn’t take things personally, even though a blanket accusation of corruption is extremely personal to a writer, who has nothing but his reputation to sustain him.
To that I did not respond, but let it go. There is an old saying that goes something like this: “A person who breaks off a discussion has not conceded that you are right, only that he or she has no further interest in what else you may have to say.”