Says, believes, tweets
Sometime in my early years as a journalist, I learned about the difference between thinking, believing and saying. I don’t remember whether it was an editor or something that I read, but the best attribution a journalist could use was “say” or “said.” Other words implied something more -- insight to a person’s thought process, decisions based on evidence or matters of faith that, in the absence of evidence, called for belief.
As a religion writer, I started to use the word believe more often because it implied faith and meant something to other believers. I had my share of arguments with editors, but over time, they let me get away with it when the circumstances seemed to warrant it.
Today as I read again about the president-elect’s rejection of the idea that Russians hacked into American computers during the last election, I consider all the words at a writer’s disposal. Trump "thinks" the Russians aren’t involved. Maybe he thinks that -- he hasn’t had a briefing from intelligence leaders. And no one really knows how or what he really thinks. Or maybe for him it is an article of faith that calls for a leap he can’t explain. Maybe he believes it.
That worries me. Faith can’t be proven, by definition. But beliefs are not without any evidence at all. Many believers, questioned about their faith, can point to scripture, theology, philosophy, history, archaeology, something that supports their belief. So far, the president-elect hasn’t done that. I wish more reporters would stick with says or said or, in this case, tweeted. None of which imply proof, evidence, truth or even of thinking.
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