Our most cherished part of the Bill of Rights is the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is the cornerstone that has allowed for the free-flowing exchange of words that make up today’s media environment.
For us, though, that right carriers a burden.
The stories we write, the thoughts we share, are archived and become the basis for the history of our community, its institutions and its residents. Our responsibility is to accurately report about the people and events in our community.
That’s why it’s disturbing to see our publication used in some of the negative political advertising that pops up every election cycle. Far too often these advertisements take quotations and thoughts out of context or conveniently leave out the background surrounding the supposedly shocking comments.
One case in point appeared this week in television ads produced for and endorsed by U.S. Senate candidate Shane Osborn. We believe Mr. Osborn took statements made by Midland University president Ben Sasse during a 2010 health care symposium out of context.
In one case, we believe Mr. Osborn used Mr. Sasse’s statements about the potential about a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, without giving enough background about the comments. At the time, Mr. Sasse did say “Republicans are not repealing this bill.” But Mr. Osborn ignores the rest of the statement about how Congress has never repealed any entitlement and that there were not enough votes in both houses of Congress to achieve that goal.
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In another case, our reporting of the conference does contain a portion of a quote from Mr. Sasse that uses the words “an important first step.” Mr. Osborn pounced on those words, using them to claim Mr. Sasse – one of his opponents in the May 13 Republican primary -- supported Obamacare.
However, those who read the full paragraph will realize Mr. Sasse is talking about the discussion the bill brought about as being an important first step in addressing the nation’s health care crisis. Mr. Sasse was clear then – as he is now – that the Affordable Care Act is a bad piece of legislation.
We urge you to reread the entire story. It can be found on our website, fremonttribune.com, by searching for Mr. Sasse’s name in November 2010. Or you can type this link into your browser: http://bit.ly/1lCwVpp. After rereading the story, we believe it is obvious Mr. Sasse has never supported Obamacare.
We are concerned when any political campaign – whether from the actual candidate or the numerous private groups that have been formed – uses our stories as the basis for negative, attack ads. We are doubly concerned when those ads take the comments out of context.
That is why we urge those who use the airwaves and pages of the media to be responsible. Don’t take comments out of context. Don’t gloss over the important background. Campaigns should post links to the actual content used as examples so voters have the opportunity to read the stories and make up their own minds.
We cherish our right to free speech and we will steadfastly fight to protect this critical freedom. Part of that fight is pointing out those who we believe take our reporting out of context in attacking another. Our responsibility is to make sure our words, our thoughts, are portrayed accurately. In this case, we do not believe they were.