Civil Media

June, 2016
Brian Watson, Founder and CEO of the Opportunity Coalition

These remarks proceeded a presentation from guest speaker Aaron Harber, Host and Executive Producer of The Aaron Harber Show

Writer and thinker Peter Kreeft once encouraged, “Be egalitarian regarding persons. Be elitist regarding ideas.”

Most media sources fail to apply this sentiment toward the clattering, shoving stream of current events that they cover. Rather, they all-too-often allow noise and rancor to dominate the media space.

It takes guts to be civil in mainstream media these days.

What does “civil” media even look like? For our guest speaker tonight, a ‘contrarian programming approach’ to media refers to reported information that steps away from that hustling clamor and overhyped noise. This alternate programming tactic ‘gives everyone a fair chance to speak by working to create a setting that is conducive to honesty and accuracy governed by mutual respect in spite of differences in opinion’. This evening, it is my pleasure to discuss why civility is better than barbarous media.

 Number one: We are fascinated by ourselves

In 1968, Walter Cronkite expressed his personal opinion on CBS about the Vietnam War and shook the United States. This departure from straight news reporting marked a new era. Critics shred him, even today, for his liberal bias, but that difference in opinion is insignificant compared to actual weight of his opinion on broadcast. The reality is that Cronkite took the time to investigate thoroughly before delivering his views, mostly unlike media today.

In 1987, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine shattered the media world once again. The repeal created modern talk media. 38 years before, the doctrine was instituted to require that broadcasters present opposing views for the sake of an educated discussion when on the air. Once repealed, hosts could push a political agenda without hesitation. Cue the rabble of the all-too-often blind, opinion-saturated modern media.

People love talk and interview shows because we are fascinated by ourselves. In a good way. The human experience is shared, and by hearing one another’s opinions and honesties, we participate together in thinking through this human life.

Number Two: The Socrates Approach

Sudden disaster is more compelling than slow development. People respond quicker to negative, hype words like ‘cancer,’ ‘bomb,’ and ‘war’ than soft, positive words. Perhaps this is because we are trained to focus on the negative aspects of life for self-preservation—or maybe we are all just bored, but hype is not worth compromising the reliability of our media.

Socrates, the most famous question-asker of all time, is recorded as saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  I think most would agree that a provocative question is usually more compelling than an opinion shoved down your throat, and the unexamined media is not worth shouting across the airwaves.

It comes down to one principle—honesty. Media should draw it out, not corrupt it. Walter Cronkite was certainly unafraid to voice unpopular opinions, and we need more of that, but with his accuracy as a factor. And not simply for the sake of being a contrarian of course, but to exercise and stretch our ideas to question the veracity of everything from Hollywood to D.C. 

As the producers of human experience, we should expect honest news that ignores hype when reporting on us.

We are fortunate to have Aaron Harber here to speak with us tonight. Mr. Harber is the host and executive producer of The Aaron Harber Show—a nonpartisan, political TV Talk Show that strives to implement rigorous standards of honesty, accuracy, and ideological diversity contrary in principle to the modern media scene.