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A MATTER OF OPINION: Don't be dumbed down

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By Robin Bass

I have watched more local television news reports this past week than in recent years and I can honestly say that I’m dumber for it.

When it comes to feeding that news-junkie habit, there’s nothing that compares to the written word – and not on some flickering computer screen either. Even when I do want to read something on an Internet news site, I have to print it out.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s something about holding a newspaper in your hands and flipping through the pages, the headlines and photos. Picking what to read now and mentally noting what to read later – like another one of President Obama’s unfunded initiatives. For those stories, I have to make sure my blood pressure cup is attached so I know when to stop and take a breather. But I still read it all the way through to the last sentence. Why? Because I actually want to be informed.

During the past week, Spencer County has been featured in several news stories by some of Louisville’s local television news stations. Was it the fact that a thousand cyclists converged on our town for the Masters Timed Trial event? No. It was to report that our judge executive has been accused of taking KACo clients to strip clubs and that $30,000 is missing from the high school coffers. Granted, both are sensational stories about people we are told to trust caught up in potential lies, deceit and cover-ups. Makes for great TV, but are you really getting the whole story?

I was especially disappointed in the WAVE-3 story titled, “Audit under way to find $30K missing from Spencer County HS athletics.” To begin with the headline was wrong. The district has not claimed that $30,000 is missing from the high school’s activity fund. The amount is closer to $11,700. Seems there was some confusion on the part of an anonymous letter writer who tipped off the station and the amount unaccounted for from concession sales was combined with the amount the school owes the district for transporting athletes to away games.

There was also the oddly placed sentence, “In the meantime, the school’s principal, football coach and athletic director have all resigned.” As if to insinuate that these three men embezzled the money and skipped town. Would a three-way split of $11,700 be enough to quit your job over? It could cover the cost of a U-haul and maybe one month’s living expenses, but let’s get real. Did anyone at the station make an attempt to contact one of the former Spencer County educators to get their comment? If so, there was no attempt mentioned in the story.

I know it is easy to point at others’ mistakes. Trust me. The Spencer Magnet has made its share. But I think this event leads to a bigger truth. We have allowed ourselves to be dumbed down by these small snippets of news found in 30-minute newscasts, top-of-the-hour radio reports and now, Twitter stories out of Iran. Tweets may have their place in our world, but do you really want to get your news in 140 characters or less?

What have we gained from these so-called technological advances? Sure the news gets out fast, but where is the depth? I find that I’m often left with more questions than answers. In those all too common situations, I simply wait a day to get the full story – in print.