Thursday, May 26, 2022
May 26, 2022

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Press Talk: ?????? ?????? ????? …

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I was pretty much minding my own business, enjoying shrimp fried rice takeout from our favorite Chinese joint, when I cracked open my fortune cookie.

I set my dinner aside to ponder.

By the way, did you know fortune cookies almost certainly originated in Japan, not China? But I digress.

Hey, we all read the fortunes, but typically they’re pretty useless. “You have a secret admirer” (no), “An old love will come back to you” (no), or “The fortune you seek is in another cookie” (hmmm).

But this one made me think. It read: “The important thing is to never stop questioning.”

It might seem simple at first, but I thought it seemed to be something we all should take a deeper look at. So I decided to ask a few folks what that fortune means to them.

First up was Donald Russo. Don isn’t the splashy kind of guy who is front and center whenever the cameras are rolling. But you have — and will — see him at many community gatherings. He’s now retired from his career as an attorney but I suspect you’ll continue to run into him, if you haven’t already. So what did Don think?

“We must always keep learning. And of course that requires us to question. In my mind if and when I stop questioning, then I am ready to die. I want to keep gleaning more and more info.”

Good stuff, right? You know more when you learn. And you learn more when you question.

Next I asked Anne McEnerny-Ogle. Most of you know her as the mayor of Vancouver. She can also bake a mean pie. When I was editor of The Columbian I went to a lot — I mean a lot — of community events. But I only was scratching the surface compared with Anne. Even before she was mayor she was everywhere. Her view?

“Our greatest assets are the individuals who are willing to wonder and never stop questioning our usual approaches to solving problems.”

Indeed. Standing pat is never a good approach to life. And — for better or for worse — we are often pushed into creative approaches when we are faced with serious problems. The same ol’, same ol’ simply won’t do in a crisis.

Finally, I spoke to Craig Brown. Craig — as Columbian readers may know — took over from me and is the editor of The Columbian. He has faced daunting challenges, including a deteriorating business model that all newspaper folks are lamenting. Yet he continues to lead a staff that puts out quality work. His thoughts?

“Questioning is at the heart of what journalists do. Questions can be polite, pointed, direct or sometimes rude. But questions are at the heart of our democracy and journalists and their pesky questions keep that heart healthy.”

Bella! Reporters keep asking so readers can get answers. (And I was often guilty of being a little pesky.)

My take?

First, I agree with what everyone has said. But like everything today, life has become much more complicated. Asking questions really is our First Amendment right. Our freedom of speech. And our First Amendment exists not to protect the speech we want to hear, but rather to protect the speech we don’t want to hear. What does this mean?

It means there will be snake oil salesmen out there asking goofy questions, obscuring the facts, so that you are confused and their point of view will be followed. Slippery politicians will often state stupid, inaccurate stuff in the form of a question, so if they’re called on it, they simply say, “Well I didn’t state it, I was only asking a question.”

So we need to accept that unsavory approach and keep firing questions back at those who try to muddy the waters.

All of this means we have to take the responsibility of understanding what is truth and what is smoke. We need to be more vigilant. As noted, question the questions. If we do our job as citizens, the truth will prevail.

Capisc?

Now here’s a question for you: Does shrimp fried rice taste good cold?

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