Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

Bill Neinast


Not too long ago, journalists and radio/TV newscasters were disciples of journalism’s mantra or motto of  who, what, when, where, why, and how.  They were like Sergeant Joe Friday on the old TV series Dragnet and his frequent, "Just the facts, ma’am.”

Interpretation or expansion of the facts was left to the editors and opinion writers for comment and discussion on the editorial pages or to the commentators on the radio and TV stations.

Today, it is hard to distinguish between fact and opinion in the news.  There is a pronounced tendency for the journalists and newscasters to present their interpretation of the facts.  

As observed in this column 111 days ago, “Do not be surprised when a headline pops up soon with a warning.  A bad day is in the offing because the President got up on the wrong side of the bed.  Not only that, he started the day off on the wrong foot.  All this useful information was leaked by a trusted member of the White House staff and, since it involves Donald Trump, it must be true.”

That is exactly what happened last week,  This was not about our President getting out of bed but about his call of condolence to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four soldiers ambushed and killed in Niger.

The initial “news” about the call was more about the lapse of time between the death and the call than it was about the condolence.  That slant on the phone call tells a lot about the objectivity or bias of the reporters and newscasters.

When did we start expecting the President to contact the families of service personnel killed in action?  It certainly was not the case when President Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congressmen, "What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?” after the slaughter of four Americans at theU. S. consulate in Benghzai, Libya.

Generally, up through at least the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,  notices of death and condolences were required from the company commander level only.   Because of the numbers involved, requiring such responses from the battalion, brigade, division, corps, and army levels would be impossible.

So criticizing our President for what some thought was a tardy response is ridiculous.

This ridiculousness is aggravated by the reporters not relaying the facts about the unavoidable delay in getting the formal notice of death to Mrs. Johnson.

An even more egregious violation of the journalism mantra or motto was the hype given the eavesdropping Congresswoman’s report that our President told Mrs. Johnson, “He knew what he was getting into when he enlisted.”

What is so bad with that?  I remember when I was told that my old friend and mentor, Major General Leonard Shea, had died of a heart attack while riding his horse.  My comment was, “Well he died doing what he loved to do.”

General Shea was an Army brat.  His dad had been an officer in the old horse cavalry and General Shea’s first years of active duty had been on horseback.  

During the several years that I served as his Staff Judge Advocate, we spent many hours with his stories of his love of the cavalry.

I do not consider my comments that, “He died doing what he loved” to be insensitive.   “He knew what he was doing,” is in a similar vein.    Why, then, is there a furor over the words used instead of simply that our President took time from the country’s business to make a personal call of condolence?

So here’s the perspective.

The current storm over a choice of words is some of the best evidence yet of the liberal press’ absolute hatred of our President.  It will not be long before we will be reading and listening to “news” about whether our President’s greetings of “How are you?”, ”Have a nice day,” or such are sincere.

Will we ever get back to just who, what, when, where, why, and how?

And if you are thinking why doesn’t he practice what he preaches, note that these words are on the Op Ed page of this newspaper.


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