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Common sense isn’t so common any more

Posted: June 26, 2014 10:15 a.m.
Updated: June 27, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Early this week I had an interesting conversation with a downtown Camden businessman. I was walking the area doing our weekly “Sidewalk Survey” feature for Wednesday’s paper and I went into this gentleman’s store to see if I might find a survey participant. I did find one.

But we also struck up a conversation about things going on locally, nationally and around the globe. He posed a lot of questions to me, but they were all the rhetorical kind -- questions that don’t really have answers and he didn’t really expect any.

We talked about frivolous lawsuits and the absurdity of what’s been in the news around here lately. He said he had not read my recent story on the subject, but he asked if I wrote that it was stupid. I told him I had not, and could not, because to do so would be nothing but sharing my opinion and speculating on how someone else thinks and feels. Those are things good journalists don’t do. We have to be careful about that, so as not to let our own feelings get in the way of the facts. It’s here, in an opinion column, that I’m allowed to speak my mind freely, within reason, of course. I explained to him that reporters have to give their writings this simple “acid test.” I ask myself as I write a news article, “can someone else disagree with this?” If they can offer a differing opinion, then what I’m writing can usually be rightly classified as editorializing, as it is only my opinion and not a provable fact. I can report that Kershaw County Council met Tuesday and this is what they said and did, because those are known and verifiable facts. But, I can’t say a councilman is great or another is mediocre or any other judgment call. I can, however, quote them or others saying such descriptive things and I’m always careful to attribute those statements to the person who made them. That’s how it’s done. I can only accurately report what people say, not what they’re thinking.

The conversation with the store owner kept coming back around to the simple question. “what has happened to common sense?” I had to admit I really don’t know, but even that question brings up another thought. What is common sense, anyway? One person’s definition of it is very likely to be different from someone else’s. Deciding who has common sense and who doesn’t could open up another long, pointless debate, as again it all just comes down to opinions, something we all have

I agree, common sense seems to have gone the way of the unicorn, but others could disagree with that and those thoughts would be every bit as valid as mine. The bulk of the discussion centered around the $2 million lawsuit filed by someone who lost one of the June 10 primary elections. That has a lot of people wondering what has happened to common sense. I wish I had an answer, but the only honest answer I can give is “I don’t know.”

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