According to Wikipedia, (not Wikileaks, Wikipedia), The Sun was a New York newspaper that was published from 1833 until 1950. The Sun is probably most famous for a response to a “Dear Editor” letter from a little girl that wrote in 1897: “I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun, It’s so.’ Please tell the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”
The Op. Ed. that was printed in response was one of the most heartwarming lies ever printed. It began, “Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” This response was introduced with: “We take great pleasure in answering at once and thus, promptly, the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that it’s faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun.”
In other words, someone at The Sun wanted readers to know that they appreciated it when someone went to The Sun as their source of truth.
It was not uncommon for people to have a preferred source of information in the “skeptical age” which was 1897. The Sun won the respect of many.
Wikipedia claims that The Sun was , “the first newspaper to report crimes and personal events such as suicides, deaths, and divorces.” Wikipedia goes on to relate that: “The Sun was aimed not at the elite, but at the common masses of working people… The Sun recognized that the masses were fast becoming literate, and demonstrated that a profit could be made selling to them. Prior to The Sun, printers produced the newspapers, often at a loss, making their living selling printing services.”
The Sun was the first to use reporters to investigate stories. “Prior to this, newspapers relied on readers sending in items, and on making unauthorized copies of stories from other newspapers.”
Like Virginia’s Father, respected newspapers were the place for many to go for clarity on what was news and what has just rumor.
I personally think a better response to Virginia would have been brief and the opposite of what it was, something like, “Virginia, you are eight years old, don’t trust your friends, don’t trust this newspaper, trust your intuition on this Santa business.”
“Virginia, do you think that The Sun’s advertisers like how children believing in Santa Claus can get parents to buy presents they can’t afford, by laying on the guilt that their children won’t understand how nice they are, without a big heap of brightly wrapped presents with a from Santa sticker on it?”
“Come on Virginia, do you honestly think that your special feelings about some stranger in a red suit are more important this time of year, then are those you have for your Papa? Yes, Virginia your little friends are right. There is no Santa Claus. Those children who believe in him are delusional. Your little friends who think it is okay to sit on the lap of a man who they believe to be magical, need to know better.”
Newspapers made of paper, are almost a thing of the past. Many of the most prestigious of papers, don’t turn a profit. They are owned by billionaires who know that the power of the press can be bought and who get off in paying for it.
My Father worked hard for a living and deserved some peace and quiet after a hard day’s work. My father got this by hiding behind a newspaper.
I was told to be quiet so my father could read the paper. I figured he was doing something very important.
My mother read the paper, too. She read it after my father was done. Sometimes, she would complain when she was asked something while she was trying to read. “I clean house and cook and do things for you kids all day long. All that I ask is that I have a few minutes to read the newspaper.”
My Mother kept reading her papers and when she read about the League of Women Voters and decided to co-found a chapter, she set up “Meet The Candidate” nights for local elections modeled after the debate set up for the leading candidates for President Of The United States. The League Of Women Voters was non-partial. The Presidential debates are now overseen by the very partial Democratic and vert partial Republican National Parties. I am glad my mother did not live to see that happen.
My love affair with newspapers began at age twelve. Delivering newspapers was one of the few paying jobs you could get at age twelve. I was both proud and pissed off that I was not able to get a newspaper route with the local paper. I was proud that I delivered the Buffalo Evening News to customers 50 miles south of Buffalo, NY. I was upset that the Buffalo paper was too thick to be folded into squares that could be hurled onto properties from the street. Needing to carry more weight, I had fewer customers than the guys that delivered the local paper and thus made less money. I had to get up close and personal with dogs protecting their territory. I had to deal with a physically attractive woman who would always greet me at her door, when I came to collect payment for the paper, in a sheer negligee. She would always ask me if I would like to come inside while she went to get her money. Part of me was very interested in doing just that. I listened to the part of me that was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to cope with whatever she had in mind.
I liked that I was delivering much more in depth news coverage than the competition. My customers typically had both the local and my paper delivered to them. Many of my customers were college professors and business men.
For me, I thought of the Buffalo Evening News, the way Virginia’s Papa, thought of The Sun. If it was printed, there it wasn’t rumor or gossip, it was the truth, at least most of the time.
I don’t know if we are living in an age of greater or lesser skepticism than in 1897. There is so much more access to print and video-audio generated news via the Internet than in 1897. News consumers often consult many sources, all of which have their own biases and influences. Many news consumers are skeptical of the veracity of the I,nternet and want television, mass media or prestigious newspapers and journals to protect them from misinformation.
Some think that main stream media often conveniently leaves out news stories that don’t reflect well on the corporations that own them or the parties that advertise with them. Others believe that mainstream media is full of out right lies and propaganda.
Some people say, “don’t believe anything you come across on the internet.” Others believe it is the only way to go and know.
Of particular interest are “fact checking” websites. Many wonder who is checking the fact checkers. Who is monitoring and who is labeling real news as being fake. Others don’t care.
Some are prone to protecting themselves from complicated news stories with the comfort of dismissing some reporting as being “conspiracy theory” or now, the popular designation of being “fake news.” Conspiracies seem to be spotted more often due to the greater availability of data to connect. The debate here is often one of whose conspiracy is a more accurate representation as to what is going on.
A good guide line in searching for truth is “Follow the Money.” If you aren’t sure who is paying the news gatherers, then you aren’t sure if what is being gathered will set you free or feed some delusion that the people who are paying want you to believe.
Another guideline is the “Fool Me Once” standard or how many facts are you willing to believe as have been reported by sources that have lied to you in the past.
You can ask yourself what topics you find so ridiculous or so frightening, that if true, you would tend to ignore any evidence of it’s existence.
Finally, there are stories that are too good to let go. Santa Claus can be one of these. A white, rich, always jolly man, whose wife doesn’t mind not having a first name, who employs elves who cheerfully do all the hard work, who has flying reindeer that travel faster than the light on Rudolph’s nose, who rewards all good children whether they live in Allepo or Beverly Hills, California is a kind of magic difficult to say no to and enjoyable to say ho, ho, ho to.
All I want for Christmas is a rise in the interest of investigative reporting, protecting free speech and encouragement for people to get better at making up their own minds.
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