Logical Fallacy in Journalism Essay
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The effectiveness of journalism hinges largely on its effective representation of the facts. This is not to argue that a news story cannot be inherently biased by such factors as culture, perception and even the intended audience of a specific journalistic outlet. However, it is to suggest that any claim made and unsubstantiated will serve only to diminish or discredit the value of a journalistic purpose. Such is a point notably evident in Clarence Page’s 2000 article, originally published in the Sacramento Bee and entitled “Keeping the Faith.
. . To Yourself. ” At the heart of this article is the assessment that the separation of church and state which Americans have long valued as a means to preserving individual religious freedoms is being eroded today by a resurgence in some contexts of what the editorialist refers to as zealotry. Page, who has a long a respectable resume as a nationally syndicated writer for the Chicago Tribune and as a frequent guest on such television news programs as The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and Hardball with Chris Matthews.
(Wikipedia, 1) Having established himself with a considerable degree of recognition and credibility, Page is possessed of the responsibility to engage his subject matter with the utmost of objectivity. However, the concise editorial presented here fails in this effort, proceeding toward its point regarding the fading line between church and state by crutching upon a series of rational fallacies. These fallacies run the gamut of categorical errors in logic, ultimately reducing the article to rhetorical expression and opinion.
There is little to recommend it as an empirical case examination or as a cultural study in American factionalism, though it seems to recommend itself as such. Indeed, the anecdote which stimulates the article is compelling enough. In a thought-provoking incident at a football game in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Page reports that when small group of students in the bleachers began chanting “The Lord’s Prayer,” it was only a matter of utterances before 4500 individuals where collectively engaged in prayer.
Informal and culturally inherent in one regard and founded upon the indoctrination which Supreme Court decisions, Page reports, no longer entitle in public schools, this would suggest a remarkable undercurrent of religious commitment. It is Page’s intent to discuss with justified concern the implications of this natural occurrence to the importance of maintaining an atmosphere in our public schools which is comfortable and non-threatening to individuals of all religious dispositions and faiths.
To the discredit of this article, Page does not employ a great deal of research or referenced support to endorse any of his claims, which renders a great many of them as outsized or disproportionately stated. While certain aspects of his argument seem rational and worthy of our consideration, the haphazard approach taken to the expression of information here suggests a less-than-journalistic value system in place. For instance, there is immediately a glaring absence of documented source support in instances where the nature of claims would seem to suggest that such is needed.
Particularly, the article’s intent suffers from Insufficient Data. At the resolution of the article proposed, Page slips into a brief and theretofore unsuggested diatribe about the importance of America’s free market and the relationship of this market to religious freedom. Though not an objectionable statement, its phraseology is questionably hyperbolic given the absence of any definable support or pretense. Page contends that “America’s vitality owes a lot to its free market place of ideas, including religious ideas.
It is a major reason more people clamor to get into this country than clamor to get out. The best way for the marketplace to keep its vitality is for us Americans to seek to understand each other’s belief, not coerce each other into joining ours. ” Particular statements such as “major reason” and “the best way” are fully unqualified and the stated proportion which determines that there is a specific effector (i. e. religious freedom) which causes more people to clamor for entrance than exit from America.
In this latter statement, there are two assessments made with unequivocal resolution that have no give evidence to support them and, upon statistic reflection, could even be held as incorrect. This is a clear journalistic shortcoming. So too is the frequency with which Untested Assumption mars the pertinence of Page’s argument. Essentially, the work is committed to the restatement of the theme that while the author does not wish to discredit faith or prayer, he does wish to recommend that religious leaders take a more sensitive and less public approach to encouraging and embracing it.
There is, in this argument, a gesture which seems almost over-compensatory, by which Page attempts to assert the high esteem in which he hold religion and prayer even as he coins various phrases which portray organized religion with condescension. This is on clear display in his determination as to the likelihood of cooperative restraint on the part of Christian prayer advocates where he states, “I don’t expect to see much reduction soon in efforts by various believers—most of them quite well-meaning—to push their beliefs on others.
” Among the more blatant of Untested Assumptions here is that which denotes that most Christians are well-meaning. Again, here is a statement which at its core does not necessarily provoke a sense of journalistic scrutiny. However, in its overstatement or in the failure to substantiate such as statement with closer inspection, the article diminishes the veracity of what might otherwise be considered a perfectly acceptable statement. It also tends to underscore the contradiction within the statement, which also voices explicitly (‘I don’t expect. . .) a professed knowledge as to that of which others are intended upon or capable.
This could be conceived as a somewhat antagonistic or inflammatory bating of the Christian parties at subject in the discussion, ultimately producing an assumption which betrays ideological prejudices on the part of the journalist. The prejudices become inherently problematic to the intended value or veracity of the statements carrying the editorial. And even more troubling, in the rare instance where the article does reflect on some verifiable account of information or historical case, it has descended into the fallacy of False Analogy.
Namely, it appears that little thought has been placed in the selection of examples by which to support the claims of the article. Particularly, we might expect that a useful analogy would compare the author’s desire to see a reduction in public display of prayer to another instance in which the public and governmental will had agreed to maintain the separation of Church and State. Instead, the author refers in a somewhat self-defeatist manner to examples of exactly the opposite.
He notes that “past court decisions have ruled that “in God We Trust,” which began appearing on currency in 1860, has been in use so long as to have lost its religious significance. Obviously, it has not lost is religious significance in some minds. ” In addition to the use, once again, of an untested assumption in the last statement which assumes that it is true and even obvious that there is a religious significance to the phrase “in God We Trust,” the false analogy here actually proves a greater cultural proclivity toward the mainstreaming of the practices which Page decries.
Thus, it is a confusing and awkward choice of analogies. On the sum, the Page article proceeds to diminish the viability and appeal of a perspective which, if founded upon supportable statements rather than categorical fallacies, would be otherwise agreeable. Works Cited Page, C. (2000). Keeping the Faith. . . to Yourself. The Sacramento Bee. Wikipedia. (2008). Clarence Page. Wikimedia, Ltd. Inc.