Know the facts as another hot election nears

Published 3:25 am Wednesday, December 5, 2001

By Staff
Scouring through the difference between news and attacks is difficult for people who watch any form of media. As Alabama's political season grows shorter leading to next year's statewide elections, the scouring will be more difficult.
Though a complete investigation has not taken place, a good example of sifting through news and attacks can be seen in the latest reports about Gov. Don Siegelman's latest brush with ethical ineptitude.
The Birmingham News first reported Siegelman's link to a series of no-bid deals, which bodes poorly for a governor already wrought with ethical questions. The next day, newspapers across the state ran a similar version of the story.
As readers begin the process of informing themselves about candidates for next year's elections, here are a few tips to consider:
To the contrary of what many believe, most news agencies have a strong desire to report the truth. They also have a strong desire to break stories before any other agency. For that reason, readers will never find stories in print based on bogus claims. There must be firm sources for a story to make it to print, and in the case of the latest story on Siegelman, the sources were as firm as possible state records. While you can't believe everything you read, well-sourced stories are believable and should be reported to readers.
Along the same lines, readers should be wary of any story with only one side. Make sure you read, and understand, both sides of the story. If there are personal questions about a story, most news agencies will be fair in helping you find the answer.
Finally, take particular caution when political candidates begin making accusations that are not confirmed by press reports. Those should be considered political doublespeak until they are proven true.
Regardless of opinion, the media's birth came from a need for government accountability. It's a safe bet that on the news pages, accuracy will be demanded by reporters and editors.

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