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Robert Burton


Great truths

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Trusting The Press - February 6, 2023

Trusting The Press

Gossip columnist Rona Barrett lied about me on national television. She claimed that she had personally spoken with me immediately after I’d left my marriage to Karen Black in 1974. That was my first experience with the morality of the press when I first came to Hollywood in my early 20s.

People love gossip with no regard for the truth and gossip masquerading as truth is pervasive in Hollywood and in journalism. “If it bleeds, it leads!”

“When men speak ill of thee, live so as no one will believe them” said Plato. Not so easy today with the internet propagating and spreading misinformation and outright lies faster it seems than the speed of light. It’s twice as hard to crush a half-truth as a whole lie. Half a truth is often a great lie.

I remember my friend Richard Berger mocking and changing the New York Times masthead motto “All the News That’s Fit to Print” to his version: “All the News That Fits We Print.” I remember being so naïve some 20 years ago that I didn’t believe him.

Then, as a market test I subscribed to and read:
  • the New York Times
  • the Daily News
  • the New York Post
  • the Washington Post
  • the Washington Examiner
  • the Wall Street Journal
  • the Economist
  • the Financial Times
What an education! I was shocked and enraged. Each publication had its own “agenda” that it promoted. Facts were incidental and referred to only to further the intended storyline being told. Innuendo took precedence and the truth was left far behind. And this was 20 years ago……

Just before a recent election, a noted evening network news anchor changed from being impartial to actively supporting a certain candidate. In one instant he reminded me of my deep distrust of the press. When the opposition underdog candidate unexpectedly won, I was astonished to see the vitriol explode in the press – and even among my circle of reasonably intelligent friends.

I think very little of politicians and the press. They use each other regularly to further their own personal agendas. I will never watch that network anchor again. I loathe a biased press and look forward to the return of impartial reporting. I prefer “just the facts, Ma’am!” as Jack Webb used to say.

I do not expect a truthful press to emerge quickly.

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