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Into every life, flowers should fall. So here’s mine to you for today. — Art by Pat Bean

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. John Adams

When I was city editor, I attended a daily meeting to decide what five or so stories would go on my newspaper’s front page for the upcoming edition.

The men – I say men because except for me the only other people in the room were usually all male — and I pretty much agreed without much discussion on four of the stories.

The fifth story, however, almost always prompted disagreement – even among the men. It came down to news judgment, although I must admit that my choice of the last story to be chosen was often gender based and I would end up being the lone holdout for one particular story or another. Sometimes I won the argument and sometimes I lost.

But I was always a proponent of the policy that a newspaper was obliged to print what readers needed to know, not what they wanted to know. And although my colleagues were of a different gender, with perhaps a different outlook, we all still shared that sentiment.

And then the Internet came along and took newspapers’ main source of funding away, advertisements. The after effects were just beginning to be felt a few years before I retired in 2004. I will always remember the day it affected my newspaper’s coverage.

An assistant managing editor proposed that a Britney Spears story be placed on the front page. In my mind that was equal to blasphemy. Only “real” news belonged out front. Celebrity news belonged inside on the entertainment page.  But only myself and one other editor in the room that day felt that way — and we were overruled.

That one move, in my opinion, downgraded the newspaper. But similar moves were being made all across the country, the idea being that if you give the readers what they want to read, they will continue to buy the paper, or whatever product is being marketed.

It was a sad day, in my opinion, for journalism.

But it’s a practice that is prevalent in today’s world. For example, what you read online is a good example. The number of times a story is visited – it’s called hits – the more likely you are to see more and more similar stories.

So, if a story on what Brad Pitt has for breakfast gets a million hits and a story on global warming gets only a thousand, that should explain why there is so much celebrity gossip being written and talked about than the kind of news we should know.

My brain follows that idea by thinking about the zillions and zillions of people who are clicking on Prince Harry and Meagan Markle stories. We are getting what we are asking for.

As Pogo said: We have met the enemy and he is us.

Just something to think about as you read today’s news online.

My canine companion Scamp

Bean Pat: To all the media outlets that continue to stick to facts and write about what readers need to know. And yes, there are still some, and I hope you are daily reading or listening to one.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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