Letter to the Editor - Avoiding nationalist bias

If you are willing to do so, I encourage you to forward this letter on my behalf to any media outlets whose email addresses you may have. (I'm sending it to the SF Chronicle, Examiner, New York Times, and a bunch of other local and non-local media.) You are also welcome to borrow these ideas and express them in your own words. Thanks for any help spreading the message!

Yours in liberty,
            <<< Starchild >>>

Editor:

  "Alcohol kills between 35,000 and 65,000 people a year, while all prohibited drugs combined kill about 20,000 people a year."

  There is something important missing from the preceding sentence. It is so common to read and hear sentences like this in news stories that you may not have noticed an omission. But please observe that the sentence said nothing about who the people referred to are, or where they are located. American writers of such sentences typically assume that you will mentally add the words, *in the United States*.

  Now consider two more sentences: "We should get our troops out of Iraq." "We should keep our troops in Iraq."

  These statements may sound like exact opposites, but in fact they share a common perspective. Both statements use the personal pronoun "we" to place the speaker (and usually the audience) in the same group as the roughly 300 million individuals who happen to live under the direct control of the U.S. government, and they both use the possessive pronoun "our" to refer to military forces controlled by the United States government.

  In the real world, people are not the same as governments. A person's interests do not necessarily coincide with the interests of the government under whose jurisdiction he or she lives, nor are they necessarily the same as the interests of others whom that government claims as its citizens. No one chooses where she is born, and many people have little practical choice about what part of the world they live in. Yet too often we think about our fellow human beings not as people like us with human rights equal to our own, but as having fewer rights or being less deserving unless they "belong" to the same nation we do -- as if this were all a big sporting competition where we're supposed to feel pride in "our team" and hope everyone else loses unless "their" team happens to be supporting "our" team!

  Unfortunately, talking about nationalism often recalls the analogy of asking a fish, "How's the water?" Of course the fish replies, "What water?" Many Americans, like many people in other countries, are so accustomed to the nationalism in the media and all around them that they use nationalist language and adopt a nationalist world view without ever thinking about it.

  Media outlets which strive for objectivity and fairness have an obligation to avoid nationalist bias. Perhaps the three most important ways to do this are by (1) clearly specifying a frame of reference and not just assuming one (are we talking about a city? a nation? the world?), (2) avoiding the use of personal and possessive pronouns that divide the world by nationality, and (3) making a clear distinction between governments and the people who live under the control of those governments.

Sincerely,

Starchild
3531 16th Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114
Outreach Director, Libertarian Party of San Francisco
Candidate for School Board
<sfdreamer@...>
(415) 621-7932

Dear Starchild and Everyone Else;

Nice point Starchild.

However, busy editors at news organizations don't have the time to consider letters on why they should have a less nationalist bias. To get an editor to respond or even consider the point made a couple of things need to be done.

When writing to any news organization keep in mind they receive literally hundreds of e-mails and written letters everyday. For your letter to make it through the " slush pile " use the 3-C's of correspondence to a news organization.

                                Clear - Concise - Correct

It also helps to be topical and pithy to get their attention. While your letter wasn't designed to be published as a Letters to the Editor the same approach applies.

To get more Letters to the Editor printed use the 3 - C's. I have been successful in having several Letters to the Editor printed over the years using this approach. Also when writing try to limit sentences to 20 - 30 words. Longer sentences have people forgetting what you wrote at the start of the sentence.

You might also consider approaching the Chronicle for an OP-ED piece on the topic of the need for less nationalist bias in the news.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian

Starchild <sfdreamer@...> wrote:
      If you are willing to do so, I encourage you to forward this letter on
my behalf to any media outlets whose email addresses you may have. (I'm
sending it to the SF Chronicle, Examiner, New York Times, and a bunch
of other local and non-local media.) You are also welcome to borrow
these ideas and express them in your own words. Thanks for any help
spreading the message!

Yours in liberty,
                                    <<< Starchild >>>

Editor:

      "Alcohol kills between 35,000 and 65,000 people a year, while all
prohibited drugs combined kill about 20,000 people a year."

      There is something important missing from the preceding sentence. It
is so common to read and hear sentences like this in news stories that
you may not have noticed an omission. But please observe that the
sentence said nothing about who the people referred to are, or where
they are located. American writers of such sentences typically assume
that you will mentally add the words, *in the United States*.

      Now consider two more sentences: "We should get our troops out of
Iraq." "We should keep our troops in Iraq."

      These statements may sound like exact opposites, but in fact they
share a common perspective. Both statements use the personal pronoun
"we" to place the speaker (and usually the audience) in the same group
as the roughly 300 million individuals who happen to live under the
direct control of the U.S. government, and they both use the possessive
pronoun "our" to refer to military forces controlled by the United
States government.

      In the real world, people are not the same as governments. A person's
interests do not necessarily coincide with the interests of the
government under whose jurisdiction he or she lives, nor are they
necessarily the same as the interests of others whom that government
claims as its citizens. No one chooses where she is born, and many
people have little practical choice about what part of the world they
live in. Yet too often we think about our fellow human beings not as
people like us with human rights equal to our own, but as having fewer
rights or being less deserving unless they "belong" to the same nation
we do -- as if this were all a big sporting competition where we're
supposed to feel pride in "our team" and hope everyone else loses
unless "their" team happens to be supporting "our" team!

      Unfortunately, talking about nationalism often recalls the analogy of
asking a fish, "How's the water?" Of course the fish replies, "What
water?" Many Americans, like many people in other countries, are so
accustomed to the nationalism in the media and all around them that
they use nationalist language and adopt a nationalist world view
without ever thinking about it.

      Media outlets which strive for objectivity and fairness have an
obligation to avoid nationalist bias. Perhaps the three most important
ways to do this are by (1) clearly specifying a frame of reference and
not just assuming one (are we talking about a city? a nation? the
world?), (2) avoiding the use of personal and possessive pronouns that
divide the world by nationality, and (3) making a clear distinction
between governments and the people who live under the control of those
governments.

Sincerely,

Starchild
3531 16th Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114
Outreach Director, Libertarian Party of San Francisco
Candidate for School Board
<sfdreamer@...>
(415) 621-7932

Ron,

  Thanks for the input. My degree is in journalism, so I'm not totally ignorant of how news organizations work. For most papers, their letters address gets you to the people running the Op-Ed section. If they find what I wrote too long to print as a letter, perhaps they will run it as an op-ed. They may also decide to edit it, which would be OK. Some, like the Bay Times locally, do run long letters. But part of my goal in sending the piece is simply to get media folks to read it. They generally do read their letters, even though they can't run all of them.

Yours in liberty,
          <<< Starchild >>>

Dear Starchild and Everyone Else;

Nice point Starchild.

However, busy editors at news organizations don't have the time to consider letters on why they should have a less nationalist bias. To get an editor to respond or even consider the point made a couple of things need to be done.

When writing to any news organization keep in mind they receive literally hundreds of e-mails and written letters everyday. For your letter to make it through the " slush pile " use the 3-C's of correspondence to a news organization.

                            Clear \- Concise \- Correct

It also helps to be topical and pithy to get their attention. While your letter wasn't designed to be published as a Letters to the Editor the same approach applies.

To get more Letters to the Editor printed use the 3 - C's. I have been successful in having several Letters to the Editor printed over the years using this approach. Also when writing try to limit sentences to 20 - 30 words. Longer sentences have people forgetting what you wrote at the start of the sentence.

You might also consider approaching the Chronicle for an OP-ED piece on the topic of the need for less nationalist bias in the news.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian

Starchild <sfdreamer@...> wrote:

  If you are willing to do so, I encourage you to forward this letter on

my behalf to any media outlets whose email addresses you may have. (I'm
sending it to the SF Chronicle, Examiner, New York Times, and a bunch
of other local and non-local media.) You are also welcome to borrow
these ideas and express them in your own words. Thanks for any help
spreading the message!

Yours in liberty,
<<< Starchild >>>

Editor:

  &quot;Alcohol kills between 35,000 and 65,000 people a year, while all

prohibited drugs combined kill about 20,000 people a year."

  There is something important missing from the preceding sentence\. It

is so common to read and hear sentences like this in news stories that
you may not have noticed an omission. But please observe that the
sentence said nothing about who the people referred to are, or where
they are located. American writers of such sentences typically assume
that you will mentally add the words, *in the United States*.

  Now consider two more sentences: &quot;We should get our troops out of

Iraq." "We should keep our troops in Iraq."

  These statements may sound like exact opposites, but in fact they

share a common perspective. Both statements use the personal pronoun
"we" to place the speaker (and usually the audience) in the same group
as the roughly 300 million individuals who happen to live under the
direct control of the U.S. government, and they both use the possessive
pronoun "our" to refer to military forces controlled by the United
States government.

  In the real world, people are not the same as governments\. A person&#39;s

interests do not necessarily coincide with the interests of the
government under whose jurisdiction he or she lives, nor are they
necessarily the same as the interests of others whom that government
claims as its citizens. No one chooses where she is born, and many
people have little practical choice about what part of the world they
live in. Yet too often we think about our fellow human beings not as
people like us with human rights equal to our own, but as having fewer
rights or being less deserving unless they "belong" to the same nation
we do -- as if this were all a big sporting competition where we're
supposed to feel pride in "our team" and hope everyone else loses
unless "their" team happens to be supporting "our" team!

  Unfortunately, talking about nationalism often recalls the analogy of

asking a fish, "How's the water?" Of course the fish replies, "What
water?" Many Americans, like many people in other countries, are so
accustomed to the nationalism in the media and all around them that
they use nationalist language and adopt a nationalist world view
without ever thinking about it.

  Media outlets which strive for objectivity and fairness have an

obligation to avoid nationalist bias. Perhaps the three most important
ways to do this are by (1) clearly specifying a frame of reference and
not just assuming one (are we talking about a city? a nation? the
world?), (2) avoiding the use of personal and possessive pronouns that
divide the world by nationality, and (3) making a clear distinction
between governments and the people who live under the control of those
governments.

Sincerely,

Starchild
3531 16th Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114
Outreach Director, Libertarian Party of San Francisco
Candidate for School Board
<sfdreamer@...>
(415) 621-7932

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Dear Starchild and All Others;

The input was mainly for the other LPSF'ers who may have wanted to write to the editors or may never have written a letters to the editor on a topic. Your LTE can get published if you follow the basic guidelines.

Starchild, a direct approach to the Chronicle, as an example, for an OP-ED should still be attempted. Below are some of the areas the Chron is looking for well written pieces. Try the Editor to see if an article like you are proposing on the nationalism bias would be accepted.

I used to work at the SF Business Times and have an insiders insight on submissions for publication.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian