Out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train. Peace train take this country, come take me home again. – “Peace Train,” Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens
Words matter. So do facts. As journalists, we rely on both. And so do you.
You’ll see it on reputable news sites all the time: “Here’s what we know.” Journalists can’t operate outside of fact for two main reasons: 1) Anything that is not a fact is therefore fiction or yet unproven. 2) Reporting anything other than substantiated fact is a disservice to our readers and it erodes trust. Responsible journalists at responsible media outlets are trained to report fact and nothing more.
Here’s the thing: Facts are critical to everyone. Journalists are people no different from anyone else—restaurant servers, or developers, bus drivers or teachers, doctors, chairlift operators, or presidents. We all have to seek truth and think critically. It is our civic and moral responsibility to see through conspiracy theories and hyperbole.
This doesn’t negate thinking for ourselves; it reinforces it. We can and will disagree on certain things, but it comes down to how we treat each other and how we disagree. After all, no government, business or organization would ever grow or improve if everyone agreed all the time. But there is one word we must all keep in the forefront of our minds: respect.
The concept of respect demands a certain degree of empathy. “Human nature,” wrote novelist Graham Greene, “is not black and white, but black and gray.” In other words, life is complicated and full of nuance. But truth is not.
The siege on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 proved that words have consequences and consequences matter. Not since the War of 1812 has the Capitol seen such insurrection. Pro-Trump protesters stormed the building, smashing windows and beating police officers in the halls of our democracy. Five people died. Pipe bombs and guns were discovered at the scene. These are the facts. There is no such thing as an “alternative fact.” The election is over. Joe Biden is our new president.
Big Sky is a community of caring people and people are inherently good. Kindness matters. We may disagree at times, but at the end of the day we all want the same things: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we want peace.
Change will come and small communities like Big Sky can be examples–we can be examples–of kindness and peace and recognizing fact over fiction. Change will come and it can come from the bottom up.
Joseph T. O’Connor Eric Ladd