On the edge

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 14, 2005

The best editorials from college campuses around the nation

Misinformation and the Patriot Act

(U-WIRE) LUBBOCK, Texas - Throughout the last several weeks, and essentially its entire life, the Patriot Act has been the target of a relentless attack. Never mind that it has been used to convict more than 150 terrorists, or even that it has been instrumental in the security of this nation for the past three years, opponents of the bill continually use misinformation and overblown rhetoric to sway public opinion.

Many of the most hotly contested and misunderstood provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire this year, yet none of them should.

Section 215 of the bill probably is the most debated, and most misconstrued. Often called the "library records" section, it actually says nothing about libraries at all.

The provision simply authorizes the FBI to obtain "tangible" items in the course of an investigation.

Although liberals have cried ad nauseam "your" library records either will (or already have) been treacherously confiscated, the FBI has not used this provision once since the Patriot Act was signed into law to obtain library records. And even if they do need it in the future, a court order is needed.

The other most notable provision set for expiration is Section 213. This provision allows investigators to carry out "sneak-and-peak" searches of the homes of suspected terrorists - again, something that has been done for decades in other types of cases, mainly mob investigations, and still requires court permission.

The entire purpose of sneak-and-peak searches is to gather information on individuals suspected of terrorist plots without letting them know it was done. Imagine if the FBI had to sneak into a terrorist's home, look around, and then leave a note on the door informing him of their earlier presence. The suspected terrorist promptly would cease any illegal activity, stop communicating with fellow terrorists, and effectively shut down the investigation being carried out. Ridiculous!

To date, not a single verifiable abuse has stemmed from the Patriot Act, yet its enemies continue to increase.

In attacking the Patriot Act, liberals, and even some conservatives, have used fear and outright deceit to turn a useful weapon of law enforcement into the enemy.

The real enemy clearly has shown it will use any weakness, and hide in any crevice available. And if the opponents of this bill are successful at creating these weaknesses, they will have become the enemy as well.

- From Texas Tech's University Daily

Shed no tears for the death of network news

(U-WIRE) AMES, Iowa - Last December, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw stepped down from his position. Dan Rather resigned as anchor for CBS News in March after a scandal involving false documents in a report on President Bush's absence from National Guard duty. That was followed by "Nightline" host Ted Koppel's departure from ABC. And just last week, Peter Jennings announced that he is undergoing treatment for lung cancer and will be periodically absent from the anchor desk of ABC's evening newscast.

Fortunately, the wave of resignations has so far not affected Jon Stewart, who will continue to anchor Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

The flurry of changes in network newscasts has been the source of much media introspection regarding the future of what some regard as a sacred institution: the evening news. Some "Chicken Littles" claim that the sky is falling: Viewers are turning to substanceless 24-hour news networks, reading extremist Web logs or listening to partisan talk radio

The truth is that the networks have much to fear. Audiences have been in a steady state of decline since the 1980s, even as ratings increase for 24-hour cable news networks. The trend is likely to continue, as the average age of a network news watcher is now 60.

Young people are unaccustomed to sitting down to the evening news at 5:30.

Young people are rejecting the dull, dumbed-down, passive intake of news in favor of specialized news, witty insight and controversial opinions that are just the click of a mouse away.

Rather than celebrating the increased accessibility of news and ability of the average person to make his or her opinion known, even those who call themselves liberals have questioned the qualifications of digital opiners. They yearn nostalgically for the return of the tri-network oligopoly - before Fox News turned journalism into screaming matches and the Internet made it possible to ignore news that was ideologically displeasing.

To fear the decentralization of media power betrays a lack of faith in the common person to distinguish fact from propaganda and wisdom from foaming at the mouth. It suggests that people lack the ability to judge for themselves in the marketplace of ideas without professional editors and news analysts filtering its content.

The passing of the age of network domination is nothing to mourn. The evening news is not a sacrosanct institution; it is one method of disseminating information that failed to change with the times, rebuffed efforts to reform and neglected to captivate an entire generation of news consumers.

New media have replaced the old. These media are interactive, entertaining, readily available at all hours and sometimes loud and discordant. But they serve a purpose - to ensure that a more important institution will not fail: The freedom of speech and of the press enshrined in the First Amendment.

- From Iowa State's Iowa State Daily