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Jeb Bladine: It’s not easy to find ‘the rest of the story’

In this age of digital information overload, we still remember the long-running radio series featuring Paul Harvey and “The Rest of the Story.”

For most of 33 years beginning in 1976, Harvey delivered distinct soliloquies written and produced by his son, Paul Harvey Jr., who filled in as host in the later years. Harvey’s unforgettable style was to begin with little-known or forgotten facts, finishing with a key story element that often was the name of a well-known person. His closing line was always some variation of, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

There is a touch of Paul Harvey déjà vu in our newsroom almost every day. However, instead of learning “the rest of the story,” we simply get “another side of the story.”

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Journalistic standards call for reporting multiple sides of a story, but that can be a hit-and-miss process. We don’t always have access to information about some of those sides, so we often depend on reminders from our readers.

Here are recent examples:

When we wrote somewhat harshly about criminal activities by people using and dealing methamphetamine, we were reminded that meth turns users’ brains inside out and upside down; it absorbs the lives of family members trying to save loved ones’ lives. However, when we wrote with more empathy for those drug prisoners, we were reminded that some damaged families simply have no more room to feel empathy or provide help.

We wrote about “moral inertia,” using the example of world tolerance toward mass killings of civilians in Syria. We were reminded how our own nation’s history is dotted with tolerance for deceptive excuses used to launch some of our own wars. That reminder concluded with this question:

“Is our moral inertia perhaps tied into the reality that we have become numbed to the atrocities of warfare because we are also the perpetrators, and our actions are ongoing, and our wars are hailed as noble, necessary, last resort, humanitarian, peace-bringing, democracy- and freedom-protecting?”

News, by definition, often produces one-sided reports. That’s why we have a Readers Forum, and why we encourage readers to remind us about other sides of a published story or commentary.

If only those situations could be resolved with a brief published note to identify “the rest of the story.” But things aren’t that simple in our newsroom, or in the lives of people we write about.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com of 503-687-1223.

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