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The truth is an immovable, incessant beast

“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”

— Proverbs 12:19

The truth is an immovable, incessant beast.

It cares not if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, whether you believe it or like it.

The truth just is.

It exists without worry for our worries, and it slaps us around whether we’re facing it head-on or putting our heads in the sand.

Repeatedly in the last couple weeks, The News has been criticized for sharing important truths with readers.

First came the reader who wanted their subscription canceled because they didn’t want to support a paper that “spreads lies.” The reader was upset over our report showing state inspectors found employees at MediLodge of Alpena — where the overwhelming majority of Northeast Michigan’s coronavirus cases have been recorded — repeatedly failed to follow protocol meant to prevent the spread of the virus.

The reader was unmoved even when I explained that our story was based on publicly available inspection reports that the reader could go see for themselves.

We also handled that story fairly. Reporter Julie Riddle offered MediLodge officials both locally and at the nursing home’s corporate office the chance to respond to the state’s findings, and both refused. Still, we reported MediLodge’s response to state inspectors, available in the inspectors’ reports, and pointed out that readers couldn’t necessarily draw a direct link between MediLodge’s shortcomings and the virus outbreak, because outbreaks had been recorded even at nursing homes with no reported failures.

Then came the letter-writer angry that we keep reporting the number of deaths of COVID-19 patients, without reporting on deaths from cancer, heart disease, or other typical ailments.

That complaint came despite our frequent reporting showing that, not only does the coronavirus kill at rates far exceeding routine illnesses, it also has ground our economy to a halt and put millions of workers on the government dole, and likely will continue to do so until the virus stops killing people. COVID-19 deaths warrant special attention.

Then came the email writer who accused us of failing to report fairly on the Alpena County sheriff’s race because, he said, we had omitted several key details relevant to the incumbent. When I provided links showing we had written almost all of what he’d accused us of not writing, the emailer admitted he had not read one of the stories because he didn’t like the headline.

There was one story we hadn’t written because the reader’s email was the first I’d heard of it. We’re looking into it now.

Finally came the caller who accused The News of liberal bias — that same old cliche — because we didn’t “give President Trump credit” for all he’d accomplished.

That, despite my repeated writing in this space that a newspaper’s job is not to give elected officials credit but to hold them accountable for their actions, and that the fairer way to judge a news outlet’s supposed bias is by measuring how often they point out one politician’s shortcomings compared to the shortcomings of his or her opponents.

I ran the numbers and wrote a column early this year showing that Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama got the same treatment for their major scandals as Republican Donald Trump has received (you can read that column here: https://tinyurl.com/y5gac6dz).

Those are not opinions. Those are verifiable facts.

There are documents to verify MediLodge sometimes fell short.

There are data to support the unique seriousness of coronavirus deaths.

There are links to stories showing we have reported on issues affecting the sheriff’s race.

And one need only open The News’ archives and count the stories to see we have treated Republican and Democratic presidents the same.

I am not saying we are perfect. The News is a small staff with limited resources. We will miss some stories and we will make mistakes. But we will always report the truth we can prove as soon as we can prove it, and we will always correct our mistakes.

What I am saying is that it is downright dangerous to think our beliefs, our interpretation of the facts or how we feel about them, is more important than the truth.

If you were raised to believe a lion is a cuddly kitten, that lion will still eat you if you cross it on the Serengeti.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.

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