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Don't believe everything you read

October 04, 2003

STEVE SMITH

In a 2002 Harris poll, people were asked which professions carried

various levels of prestige. In the category of "very great prestige,"

35% of the respondents mentioned the clergy, including priests. In

the same category, only 19% mentioned journalism.

At the height of the sex abuse scandal, the clergy beat reporters

by almost twice as much.

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Most kids don't read the newspaper, and if they do, it's probably

limited to the comics and sports sections. Nothing wrong with that --

it's at least a start. But the recall is proving to be an outstanding

lesson in how to be a discriminating reader and how important it is

to not accept the printed word at face value.

First, let's get my own loyalty straight. I am a registered

independent. I have no allegiance to Democrats, Republicans or any

other political party, only to decent people with integrity. I

believe that character does count. The recent front-page allegations

of Arnold Schwarzenegger's various gropings are cause for concern,

but I am also concerned about the timing and style in which the

message was delivered.

My examination of the story is only a starting point for the

larger picture of the importance of digging for the truth. In my

opinion, four of the six allegations that were printed on Thursday

should never have made it into the story. That is not to say that

they did not happen, but that the supporting evidence too weak to

make this credible news.

When I told my kids yesterday not to believe everything they read,

I was not only talking about the newspaper. Across the country,

textbooks are filled with substantial factual errors. Kids may still

read, for example, that the Earth's moon was formed when an asteroid

hit the planet and the chunks collected in space. Also that the

Pacific Ocean is the hole left by the asteroid.

Do you believe that warm air rises and cool air is sucked in to

replace it? If so, you are wrong. Do you believe that space has zero

gravity? Wrong again. Columbus did not prove the earth is round. And

the Earth does not rotate once every 24 hours (though it's close).

All wrong, yet, you'll still find these "facts" being taught to kids.

In the mix of the latest Arnold controversies is his response, the

exact wording of which has been overlooked by much of the media.

In his response to the groping allegations on Thursday,

Schwarzenegger did not use any euphemisms in his apology. There was

no "I made a mistake" or "I used poor judgment," or any of the other

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