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Lee Wolverton

Lee Wolverton

George F. Will, a writer unrivaled in his precise use of language, opens a recently published collection of essays quoting Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset’s reference to “the unruly torrent of life.”

The two-time Pulitzer winner adds: “A journalist, whose job is to chronicle and comment on the torrent, knows that this is not amenable to being mastered. That is what it means to be unruly.”

These remarks were especially salient in light of a week that featured events of the sort that drive editors to drink, not that good bourbon isn’t itself a ready excuse for consumption.

It began with a voicemail from a caller responding to my offering in this space a week ago on the death of facts. The caller explained that he expected an excoriation of President Joe Biden and was disappointed not to get it.

On this subject, Biden’s has been a turbulent presidency coinciding with a time in America in which few things are going well. The fallout from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan reverberates. Inflation is skyrocketing. The labor market is a desert. Biden is frequently incoherent. Only the willfully oblivious can deny he is a man past his prime, and yet after so many failed tries, here he is leading the free world, a shadow of himself.

Of course, Biden wasn’t the point of my remarks. My point was to share another writer’s insights on how we got here. But such is the nature of the day. One takes a political side and marches in lockstep with one group while being despised by the other. It is the era of getting in line and doing what one is told. We have options, two precisely, this side or that side. Choosing neither is unacceptable in a land of conformists.

Later in the week came harumphs from Marshall University over reporting that sources at schools switching to the Sun Belt Conference told us the Herd soon would do the same. We also reported the school’s assertion that no decision on the matter had been made. The evidence of whether our sources are correct was on display Friday when the school announced the move. The real concern for some appears to be that we declined to conform to the school’s preferred narrative, which, in this case, would have been to report nothing.

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This is how the communications game is played today, by politicians, ideologues, leading institutions, the entertainment business and Corporate America. While we live in a time when information itself is an unruly torrent, a select few seek to control the flow of it and damn those who refuse to comply.

Then came a marching order to play to the ideological middle, packaged with the theory that a paper’s ideological leanings had resulted in its financial undoing.

Regarding this assertion, two responses:

First, a perception prevails in one corner that newspapers suffer today because of their purported ideology. Like many claims made on both sides of the aisle, this one is moored in the soft soil of conclusions conveniently drawn rather than in the firm foundation of fact. Newspapers generally and the one specifically in question sunk because of poor business decisions exacerbated over time by major players in the digital market harvesting profits from badly wounded prey. Bad business kills business.

Second, the idea of an ideological middle is arcane. Agree with this side on an issue and the opposite side on another in today’s age, and one is apt to be spat out like the lukewarm church in the Book of Revelation. The concept of some safe middle ground on a given issue is like the notion of compromise and reasoned discourse, an anachronism, something buried in a time capsule for some other generation to uncover.

Rest assured, these pages are not produced with the idea of conforming to a narrative right or left. Neither are they produced with the intention all will dutifully nod in agreement with all they read. That is a fool’s errand. Rather, these pages are produced with the intention of getting the facts right and in context, presenting the leading issues of the day, getting in front of the news rather than merely reacting to it, provoking and intriguing readers and stirring rational debate about matters of high importance or broad interest or both.

We come closest to doing that when we refuse to conform to preconceived narratives or the perceived security of safe, sanitized content. Chronicling the torrent, alas, requires us not to shrink from it but to dive headlong into it.

Lee Wolverton is the vice president of news and executive editor of HD Media. He can be reached at 304-348-4802 or lwolverton@hdmediallc


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