This past week, I’ve come to appreciate the use of writing for good because of a story about my employer that was used for bad.
The narrative included a hero at my school who was “beloved” and a villain who oversaw “several dark years.” What was supposedly a news story about a legal matter at our school district was really an opportunity for a local writer to express her unpleasant bias.
We at the school see the kids’ smiling faces, the tears at graduation, and the cheers at sporting events. There have been challenges, of course, including the one the writer highlighted, but the idea of “dark years” had us scratching our heads.
But it’s common for the news to exaggerate for provocation.
More troubling were the personal attacks.
We also know the “villain.” Imperfect as anyone else, yet few at our school doubt her motives as anything but wanting the best for the students. In fact, the successes at the school are abundant. Yet the writer missed (or ignored) all this in favor of highlighting a controversy and injecting snide remarks. This bias not only limits one’s perspective and scope from which to write about a topic. But it’s also just mean. I’ve since watched this woman whom the writer attacked go about her job at the school doing her best to ignore what’s being written about her.
I know tabloids are built upon this kind of writing and that celebrities and various leaders have to live with these judgments all the time. I just never appreciated the ugliness of it all until it was directed to something I’m connected to. I had to wonder why this writer would feel satisfaction in tearing people down and skewing the truth. And while no writer is without bias, so many these days seem to blatantly incorporate their hate into their nonfiction stories under the guise of being on the right side of the issue or with the excuse that they are “punching up.”
The lesson has been threefold for me: sympathize with the targets of a writer’s ire, spot the cases where a story warps the truth, and then work to avoid this in my own writing.