- - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Did you ever experience something so embarrassingly funny that you just had to share it? I had such an experience a few days ago, yet no one was around to tell, and it was just too comical to keep to myself. So I posted it on Facebook and Twitter from my smart phone. Immediately, my inbox was flooded with well-intended warnings, suggesting I delete the post because of how the liberal media could spin it. What if I ever run for office again? What about when my IRS investigation heats up? I just handed my haters gold.

Honestly, they had a point. The same warnings ran through my mind before I posted it. The post in question:

“So, apparently the rumor is true. Cape May does indeed have a nude beach. How do I know? I took a wrong turn on the Higbee Beach Nature Trail!”

A modified version was posted on Twitter.

My well-wishers were worried about the same potential headlines that ran through my mind: “O’Donnell Goes to Nude Beach,” “GOP Candidate Frequents Nude Beach”… and …well, you get the idea.

For the record, no I didn’t stay and participate. When I reached the end of the trail that led to the beach, I froze, lifted up my sunglasses and blinked a few times because I was unsure of what I was seeing. When it struck me, I immediately burst into laughter (which I felt bad about) and bolted out of there!

Why would I post something like this knowing it can easily be used against me later? Because If I continue to live in fear of how some jerk with a notebook might spin something against me, then those same jerks control my life.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I’m still cautious. Otherwise, my Twitter feed would have more things like Hashtag Cougars Rule! Posts like “Gutsy Speech at U.N. by Benjamin Netanyahu” would stay unfiltered and read “Benjamin Netanyahu kicks U.N. ass, Hashtage So Hot, Hashtag Man Crush.”

But this is exercising prudence, which is different from living in fear of the media’s spin.

We give too much power to the media when we react to their salacious stories. We especially give them too much power when we don’t discern between fact and opinion in their allegedly objective news story. In most major news outlets, fact and opinion are used interchangeably. Carefully chosen adjectives are peppered throughout an article, gently pushing the reader to have a desired emotional reaction, whether it’s a good or bad reaction.

My high school English teacher used to give us an assignment to practice this discernment. She’d hand out a mock news article and have us identify the subjective and objective words. For example, “President Reagan foolishly challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall in a reckless speech that could have international repercussions.” We’d circle the words “foolishly” and “reckless” because these words turned a fact into opinion. At the time, President Reagan’s own advisers voiced concerned about this speech. The state department even deleted that now-famous line several times. So the speech could be called reckless. But, the reporter’s job is to report, not editorialize, the event.

Our homework would be to write an objective news stories based a current event of our choosing. I didn’t like this part of the assignment. I realized early on that I’m too opinionated to be an objective news reporter. If only more people at MSNBC had Mrs. Fine for sophomore English!

As the 2014 midterm elections near, it’s important to keep in mind that most reporters use fact and opinion interchangeably. As we read about the candidates, we need to weed out the subjective words and formulate our opinions based on the facts. Of course, if you’re reading this column, you probably are someone who fact checks and does your homework. Thank you. By the way, I’m a columnist, an opinion writer, so I get to be as subjective as I want to be!

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