From the editor’s desk: Are we alone?

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As is often the case when I feel the need to write opinion pieces, I do not want to have to discuss this, but I think I have some pretty important questions on my mind.

Today, NRI NOW published an excellent piece – in my humble opinion – from contributor Dick Martin on the settlement of the lawsuit brought by parents over Rhode Island’s public school mask mandate. The suit was initiated by parents hailing from our coverage area – Glocester primarily – so I asked Dick write a follow up on the breaking news story I authored earlier this month.

The article comes two full weeks after the settlement – considered a win by those challenging the pandemic-prompted governor’s order – was finalized. And yet, to date, only openly conservative news sources – and us – have published any information on the agreement.

When the litigation was first filed, it was widely publicized as a story with national implications. The parents involved were often subtly portrayed as a fringe political element, sure, but media at least seemed to universally agree at the time that the subject matter was important. Masking – and the local and national government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic – after all, are arguably the most divisive issues of our time.

So I have to ask: Where is the rest of the Rhode Island media on this now? Are they asleep? Still reeling from excessive eggnog consumption? Or is a little, online only, hyper-local source out of northern Rhode Island the only media still willing to cover news from both sides of the political aisle?

I am very proud of NRI NOW‘s adherence to the traditional news principle of non-bias, and very committed to it. But this editor and her small team can’t be the only ones left in the state who care about or understand the principles of journalism.

I’m not naive or blind: of course I know that most national news sources have long abandoned the traditional journalistic code, and that in local media, opinions are often only thinly veiled. That code, like anything, has always been imperfect as it is implemented by writers who are human beings and, inevitably, do have opinions.

But have my peers given up in their mission of informing the public so completely that they are now willing to ignore major developments that don’t fit their narrative?

Or, is the statewide conventional media’s decision to ignore this story based in fear of controversy? Have we, as a society, become so polarized that solid information and developments regarding controversial topics are now avoided completely?

Is conventional media so afraid of alienating its audience that it’s no longer willing to tell the truth?

I don’t want to believe any of those things. I don’t want to think that the era where news had at least some integrity has come to a close.

But can someone – please – offer an alternative explanation regarding the near universal silence on this topic in the news cycle?

As is also often the case with my editorials, these questions come with a plea – and a mission – for our readership: In a polarized world, try to be the exception. Try to bring back that time where truth – not being on the “right” side of a topic – was the ultimate goal. Call on your leaders – and your media – to do the same.

Because as proud as we are of our commitment to delivering the truth beyond politics, it’s getting awfully lonely out here.

Sandy Hall

Sandy Hall is the founder and editor of Northern Rhode Island News On the Web

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Are. You. Kidding. Me? Who are you?

    As the Reporter who spent countless hours filming in the Courtroom, re: Southwell V. McKee … Countless hours at Barrington School Committee, on the “Barrington 3” … Chasing down Governor McKee for important moments in the litigation … Challenging Dr. Scott at numerous press conferences … Visiting NEARI, I never saw a single individual reporting from your “Outlet”. So on what basis, did you “report”? Your “Excellent Piece” seems to be drawn from a Press Release. The only reason I even know about this article was a text I got this evening filled with laughter emoji’s BTW? Here is a National Report that incorporates an interview I conducted at Rhode Island Superior Court, after the final resolution of the case. https://thefederalist.com/2023/12/20/rhode-island-parents-score-major-legal-win-against-the-states-school-mask-mandates/

    • Hello Mr. Ford.
      Congratulations on being the exception and as I’m familiar with your work, I’m well aware that you often are.
      We’ve actually met at various events and press conferences that we both covered over the years, although what we do is quite different. At least one meeting sticks out: we spoke at the launch of the project to improve the Route 146 corridor a few years back and you gave me your business card. Oh, and you’ve also emailed me directly in the past. So perhaps if you search the old memory banks, you just might know who I am!
      With that out of the way, I have nothing to offer but praise for your vigilance. It does seem the SEO ranking for your show could use some work, however, as many, many searches on this subject have not once directed me to The Coalition. I am thrilled to see there’s someone else willing to cover this, and you have effectively answered my question: No, we’re not completely alone, but those still out there willing to delve in with a fair-handed approach to controversial subject matter can be hard to find. Increasingly, that seems to be a rarity. As evidence, I’ll note that the link you shared to a “national report” is indeed for a far right leaning publication. And my whole point is that this topic is important enough to be of general interest and should not be relegated to the fringes of conventional media.
      It is true that we were not in the courtroom, and you are sure to be far more versed on the matter than we are. As you may be aware, (or may not, as you seem to have forgotten me,) our beat is hyper-focused on northern RI, so that kind of dedicated time isn’t always in the cards. You’re far more likely to find us at municipal meetings and events here in northern RI, as I’m sure you will again.
      Cheers and a Happy New Year to you. Keep up the good work.

  2. Sandy let me first say I respect your opinions and especially your journalism that I enjoy every day! My argument is against the suit itself. Decisions were made solely for the purpose of keeping everyone safe based on the science available. We can look back and improve the response to the next pandemic without a lawsuit being involved. The lawsuit has no legitimacy to it, which is probably why other news outlets have not reported it.

    • Thank you for the clarification, as I understand your comment much better now. And please don’t take my responses to mean I’m taking offense. I put this stuff out there with the hope of bringing out diverse opinions and open (and polite) discussion.
      Now to the heart of your point: if this was newsworthy when it first happened (there were dozens of articles,) why would the outcome fail to meet the same mark? Either the lack of follow up equals bad journalism, or there’s opinion involved, which is also, (you got it) – bad journalism. Because it is fine for Frederick Hunt, as an individual, to determine he feels that the lawsuit has no legitimacy to it. But that’s not for Sandy Hall – or any other journalist – to decide. It is, at minimal, a lawsuit against the state governor by an organized group of local parents that already made headlines all over New England. There’s no legitimate excuse NOT to inform readers and taxpayers across the state of the outcome, at least in my view.

  3. While your point about the national media is right on, but the suit against masking is definitely right wing media. Covid was a damaging virus on our planet, not just the U.S. . Science provided guide lines to keep us safe and alive on what was known at the time. Hence as scientists learned more adjustments were made. There is a reason as you stated this was reported only on openly conservative news outlets.

    • My point is not to weigh in on the masking issue at all. My point is that the settlement involves holding hearings about the efficacy of masking in schools, and whether you like or dislike that agreement – the fact that it happened IS 100% news. It has social, cultural and national implications, and I can not imagine a good reason why the agreement would be ignored or only covered by far right media, unless it’s that we, as media, have become scared to report facts that may not fit into popular opinion or a particular narrative.
      And that, no matter where you stand on any issue, is a very dangerous road…
      (Full disclosure: I had to edit the above comment to reflect that it was a settlement, not a ruling. Sorry to be commenting ‘off the cuff.’)

      • To summarize: my job is not to tell you what to think, to decide the science, cast judgement on actions, or to have an opinion on any of the issues of our time. It’s to tell my readers what happened. And this happened. Now you know… and knowing information is better than ignorance of any important decisions. I would hope, agendas aside, that any thinking human would agree.

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