This came to me in the shower, before I got the news of the last post, and before I wrote the post before that too. In fact the plan was for this immediately to follow from "Plan for blizzards" so I'd come out of the shower, write that post about my day, and then have this fictitious monolog. Didn't quite work out that way. I'll see what I can remember.
Scene: the main room of the paper of record for a county no one cares about. It was just bought by someone who can afford to buy a paper with no expectation that there will be a return on the investment. He's foreign to the local staff, from a different part of the country, with a different accent, and probably different religious and political views. He's called everyone who works at the paper together for a company wide meeting. He's about to give a speech.
"You're probably wondering why I bought this paper. I'm not from around here, where I come from we'd say I'm 'from away' and you're not exactly nationally known. That's why I bought this paper. The rest of the country ignores you on the rare occasions they notice you exist. That means two things. First it's insulting. You matter as much as any of them. Second, it means that you're under the radar and that is a very powerful thing.
"Lasting change needs to come from the bottom up. It needs to come from the places that people don't notice until it's so firmly rooted that it can't be ignored. You can change the way news is told, and in so doing change everything. That is why I bought this paper. Because you have that power.
"So this is what we're going to do: we're going to tell the truth. Whether we like the truth or not. That means you have to know more about what you're talking about then the so-called experts discussing the topic because you need to be able to say when what they're saying is true and when it's false.
"If you're working a religious beat you need to know what the virgin birth is, what the immaculate conception is, and all of the differences between the two are. You need to know the words contraception and abortifacient mean, the ways in which they are different, what the current position of various churches on each are, what they were a year ago, what they were five years ago, what they were 50 years ago.
"If you don't then someone who is misinformed, or lying, or both, can get away with lying to our readers and that I will not have.
"If someone uses a world you don't know hit the books, look it up, and find out what it means in every possible concept before you even think about writing an article.
"I don't care if you go with 'Trust but verify' or 'Trust no one' but the bottom line is we're not printing anything we haven't checked.
"Sometimes someone you would trust with your life will lie to you, sometimes someone you wouldn't trust with the time of day will tell the plain and simple truth. In either case you won't know until you check, so everything gets checked.
"And in every case I want the truth right there, not three paragraphs later, not as a correction or an addendum, but right next to what was said. If people tell the truth then, 'So and so said' quotation, 'Which is true,' if they lied then, 'So and so said,' quotation, 'which is a lie' Period. 'In fact the truth is' whatever the actual truth is. Or you could reverse it, 'Even though the truth is' the actual truth, 'so and so lied and said,' quotation. But from now on the actual truth gets put right next to the quotation.
"No he said she said. 'These are the facts, this is what people said' and the 'what people said' includes every true thing being verified as true immediately and every false thing called out as false immediately. In the same sentence as the quote.
"No matter how much we hate the person telling the truth or like the person who is lying.
"Basically, every section is going to be held to the same standards as the Sports Page. If the headline on the sports page was, "Yankees supporters say they won the game, Red Sox supporters say they won the game," without telling what the actual score was that writer would be fired before the issue went to print. The truth is every bit as straightforward as the score of a game and I want our readers to know that they're getting as much truth when report on anything else as they are when we report the score of a game in the Sports Section.
"From now on every single thing we print is checked. We don't settle for reporting both sides of a story, we dig down and report the actual facts, then tell people those facts, what each side got right, and what each side got wrong."
Or something like that.