By nature, I am someone who hews to the middle. I need to hear all sides of a story. I pride myself on considering that someone else may have a better point.
Unless I am engaged in a tough round of dominoes or Scrabble, I think of myself as unreasonably reasonable.
But these times do not lend themselves to that kind of thinking.
At a time when covering a presidential campaign means sorting through your definitions of dishonesty, bigotry and intolerance, being reasonable seems to be a dodge.
I don’t know of a newsroom where this has not become a prime topic of discussion recently. It peaked this week after Donald Trump once again displayed his gift for grabbing headlines by declaring that Muslims be banned from entering the United States.
At BuzzFeed, the editor has given his writers express permission to call the Republican frontrunner a “mendacious racist.” At my old NBC stomping grounds, the eminently reasonable (that word again) Tom Brokaw flat out called the Trump proposal “dangerous” and warned against the consequences of “paranoia overriding reason.”
Here’s the problem. Trump has done this again and again during this campaign — insulting women, black protesters, Mexicans, other candidates and anyone who dares disagree with him. Something this week, however, flipped the switch.
We discussed this dilemma at length in our NewsHour planning meeting this week. Do we talk about the headline? Or do we shed light on what’s behind the headline? We opted for the latter.
But I am still bothered. Do we give a platform to offensive statements simply because they are uttered by a leading actor on the political stage? Do we wait (hope) for other politicians to take up the cudgel?
Do we ignore what the applause for these statements tells us about their broad appeal?
It’s a tough choice. Hyperbole is not easily dealt with. Usually it collapses under its own weight.
But what if it doesn’t? This election year, polluted by fear and terror, may provide new challenges for us all.