Change One Thing

Like many people, I have more time on my hands lately to muse and ponder and think. I have been bedeviled by a question which popped into my head for no apparent reason:  Grace, if you could change one aspect of society right now, what would it be? Of course, I’d like a safe, readily available COVID-19 vaccine, but there will be another virus next year, and my question is aimed at societal structures.

I see posts about gerrymandering, voter suppression, wealth concentration, climate change, public health, corporate greed… all kinds of issue are begging for our attention. I came across a paper, though, that says at least when it comes to climate change, if you offer people a small step they can take that doesn’t really have a big impact (like getting rid of plastic shopping bags), then they are less likely to support the big measures (a carbon tax) that have been proven to have a real benefit.

The paper goes one step further. About 25 companies create half of our fossil fuel emissions worldwide, and 100 companies create more than 70 percent of global green house emissions. These companies are often major sponsors of the highly visible, barely effective measures that help us feel virtuous about our personal green agenda, while we move the global needle barely at all. The big dirty polluters know they are lulling us into a false sense of activism by throwing us these dog treats, and my friends, that really frosts my cookie.

So would I put at the top of my “things that need to change” list holding major polluters accountable? Well, that’s tempting, but that’s only one issue that we aren’t very well informed about. I think instead, I’d put reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine at the top of the list. This was the set of FCC rules that, until Reagan repealed them, required news coverage to be fair, balanced, and accurate. Another provision of the Fairness Doctrine was that people had to be told–prominently–whether what they were reading or hearing was news, opinion, or advertisement.

And NEVER the twain did meet.

Now? The networks cover whatever grabs ratings, “commentary” disguises bias as news, major advertisers provide content to news pages. (Looking at you, CNN…). If we do not have a reliable source of truth, of facts, of informed, disinterested analysis, then how can we intelligently move forward on any issue? We will spin our wheels on campaign finance reform, climate change, and just about every major issue out there, because we’ve been trained to expect entertainment instead of information from our “news” sources.

So that’s where I come down in terms of How to Fix Society: Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine first. Then you have a standard of truth, easily distinguishable from non-truth, and beholden to no one set of interests. It was a good plan, and it worked well for a long time, and from that foundation of truth we can attack all the other sharks swimming in our collective bathtub.

What’s on your mind these days? If you had three wishes, what would they be? To three commenters, I’ll send an ePub file of A Duke by Any Other Name, which is coming out on April 28. (And PS, Darius is on sale in the webstore this month for $3.99, and $4.99 at the major retailers!)


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48 comments on “Change One Thing

  1. I have been watching the virus updates after I sign off from work.
    Listening to the President and his task force, I believe that everyone is working hard to get this situation under control and get the needed supplies to where they are most needed.

    If I could change anything…it would be the media and their questions. The second thing I would change is for congress and senate to work together. The Relief bill was stalled because members of Congress wanted to add non related items to the bill.
    The third thing I would change is for friends and family to work together, to stop arguing about politics and who said what to who.

    Our country is in a crisis.
    People are doing the best they can with the information they have.

    I applaud Bob Kraft and the team that enabled the Patriots jet to travel to China to get the masses for NY RI and Mass.
    Team work is what we need.
    I remember a quote from President Kennedy…Let is not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but, the right answer.

    We needs answers & solutions, not arguments.

    • I’d vote for ya! There are many people putting a best foot forward, like the Patriots, like everybody staying home and playing by the rules. Like my friend whose neighbor snagged her a 24-roll pack of TP and left it on the front porch. Lots of points of light if you look for them.

  2. My first wish would be this; I wish people would be kind. In this crazy situation we find ourselves in, folks in close proximity are getting on each others last nerve. If we thought to be kind, this would probably not be the case. If we chose kindness every time, things would be better in so many ways.

    My second wish would be this; I wish people would think about the repercussions of their behavior. Whether a smart remark or the packaging of the brand of coffee you buy, everything you do or say has a repercussion, good or bad.

    My last wish would be this; I wish money didn’t rule the world. Never has this been more apparent than now. I remember my late father-in-law saying something to the effect that if it were a question of money, it shouldn’t be a question. Kinda cryptic but you would have to know Pop to understand.

    I hope you are safe and well, Grace. Rereading some of your books have really helped me cope the last few weeks. I love your Regencies but have a real fondness for your Victorian/Scottish clan too. 🙂 And your contemporaries are fun too! Have been reading my favorite sections in each of your genres!

    • I have seen more snappish behavior on FB, people finger-pointing and lecturing, snarking, and generally not being helpful. You can see the fearfulness behind it, but it’s still Not Helping.

      I’m glad the books are a haven of HEA, because that’s how they work on my end too. The writing chair is my happy place, and I’m there a lot these days.

  3. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

    I, too, have been reading through the lighter works on the shelf and on my iPad. I think my Grace Burrowes favorite is the trilogy from Damson Valley (plus novella)

    • My lawyers in love seem to have a small but loyal following. Elias in Love is also set in Damson Valley, I think in part because I wanted to go back there, and also because I love Jane and Dunstan. And Wallace the cat.

  4. I didn’t know the Fairness Doctrine ever existed although I have realized how very hard it is to find unbiased news. I try to read a variety of paid and subscription newspapers as well as my local newspapers. I’m very grateful for the Guardian, US and UK.

    I doubt we will ever see the Fairness Doctrine reinstated. It is to our government’s benefit (on both state and federal levels) to keep us simple folk distracted over the hot topic of the day, while quietly making changes that result in our children and future generations having less opportunity to advance, and less financial security than we have. It all comes down to money – we aren’t really the people they represent because we don’t make the big campaign contributions, so they *are not* looking after our best interests, or the health of the country.

    Voter suppression activities are ongoing everywhere, and never stop. It’s sad.

    I’ve always believed that when we help others rise, we all rise higher.

    • Sorry, didn’t post any wishes. All of mine are about the current crisis and I suspect are shared by many people.

      I am reading books with a lot of humor right now, both new and old favorites.

      For a bit of humor, I can recommend this Youtube video that has Chris Mann singing a parody of Adele’s Hello song.

      • Loved that song! My family is keeping track of some of the “quarantunes.”

        To The Guardian, try Al Jazeera and sometimes The South China Morning Post. We, locally, get Facebook updates from our hospital’s Chief of Staff as pertains to right here, right now. Good of her.

    • I only know about the Fairness Doctrine because I worked on my university’s campus newspaper in the early eighties, and got a thorough grounding in journalism ethics. Never, no never, ever did what the advertising side of the house was doing have anything to do with the news side. To let them touch was anathema, and the idea that we’d pull our punches on the news side to avoid offending a major advertiser was unthinkable.
      The rule before publication was two non-related confirming sources for every fact, and the only place opinion belonged was in the editorial page. None of this “allegedly… some people claim… there are those who think…” crap. And it is crap.
      Journalism was a simpler, tougher profession, and more honorable.

      • I remember when reporting was different, didn’t realize what changed it. I’ve just realized that none of our presidents or Congress (that I know of) have tried to put that law back in place, and they could have. Thanks for the enlightenment.

        I don’t normally write my congressman but I think I will start bugging them about this.

  5. Ugh,YES I have wished SO MANY TIMES fir a return of the fairness doctrine. So many people appear to have virtually no critical thinking skills, and the “news” garbage that is poured into their eyes or ears is swallowed hook, line, and sinker. It’s infuriating and appalling to me.
    I would wish The most for for a public with critical thinking skills as well as a sense of society, not a sense of individualism.

    • Amen to what you say, except I don’t see much individualism here. I see a lot of groups that all parrot the same thing.

    • I don’t know where critical thinking skills went, because I was certainly raised with them, but then, my dad was a scientist. Hugs we did not get; logic, we did.
      I wonder if it’s chicken or the egg. When the news is a sludge of opinion and spin, critical thinking isn’t modeled, so we don’t use it. Who knows. When I’m in charge…

    • Ooo! I’ve been saying this for so long! I agree wholeheartedly. Public schools have changed so radically since I went to them, that I have no idea what’s being taught or how these days. But I do know this: there is no such thing as a Civics class any more, and there has never been a class on how the media works. Both are, I believe, essential in understanding how things work in our country and should be taught, and rigorously. In fact, I’d make the passing of these two courses contingent on receiving a High School diploma.

      • Or earning a HS diploma contingent on passing these courses…
        I’ve read and re-read it until either way sounds correct, but my inner editor thinks this is the correct sequence.

  6. If I could change one thing, it would be a return to civility. Really Grace, your idea may be more impactful, but I recall some 33 years ago when the candidates first started attacking each other instead of promoting themselves. I remember thinking “uh oh this is not good” and low and behold the whole trash talk think is now main stream – I cringe just thinking about it…. Let this be my number 1 wish.

    Wish #2 would be universal health care. I am not a socialist, but I think this one is important. Right around the same time as the “incivility” thing started there was a push to “take control” of healthcare by creating a bunch of contingencies that took way too much control away from the medical professionals and put in the hands of the insurance industry – including Medicare.. That is a very long story, but it didn’t work, yet here it still is. I think universal healthcare is the answer.

    Wish #3 Would be to rescind all of the special considerations and perks that go to our legislators. I would like to see every policy they enact affect them personally. I think that would push things in the direction it needs to go.

    How very altruists of me…. I really personally want to feel safe/actually BE safe as I age out of my time on earth, This being a senior stuff is very unnerving if one dwells upon it more than occasional short spurts.

    • I’m with you on all of the above. If our health care was the best in the world with fantastic outcomes, I might be more hesitant about ditching the system we have, but it’s both the most expensive (and profitable) health care system in the world, AND it yields some of the worst patient outcomes.
      How much longer will we allow ourselves to be exploited like that?

    • Sue, Look at our current situations. People who lose their jobs also lose their employee provided health care, unless they have the money to pay those premiums themselves (and have the option). If they have family coverage (I do), then it goes too.

    • I believe that, somewhere, back in the mists of time, someone figured out that you could paste any nasty sounding description on any good idea and make it anathema. Take, for instance, the words “socialist” and “socialism.” In this country socialism has been smeared with all kinds of unlovely associations. However, if you think about it, the very ideas espoused by socialism can be found right in the New Testament. I’m not super-religious, nor am I a socialist, but it’s always seemed to me downright villainous that politicians can undermine efforts to provide any kind of safety net for Americans by labeling it socialism, then turn right around and call themselves good Christians. I agree with you that universal health care is important, but I also believe you’re not going to get this Congress to pass it, nor this president to sign it into law. What you might be able to do, however, is to shame them into providing the same health care provided to congress and the president to all our first-responders. Last night on the news a first responder being interviewed said he had no health care. Now, that’s just wrong.

  7. When the world gets through this current crisis and we count the cost of human life and financial loss I just hope and pray countries can communicate with each other and work together in righting many issues that are going wrong in societies around the globe.We have become greedy and self important and materialistic and blind to what is going on around us.Why is everything so complicated.We now have a time to reassess and rethink many things toss out the lies and false news that some folk call entertainment but ruins many lives.Let’s have a good clean up and start afresh.A huge task but possible I pray.Keep safe and strong and be optimistic.

    • I forget who pointed out that as European countries are struggling for PPE, it’s China that’s loading up the planes and pitching in–the US is absolutely dropping the ball. Good on China (bad on the US), because you are absolutely right, Brenda, that this is a chance for us to hit reset with our neighbors, to know better and do better.
      Hope we take it.

  8. Big big big climate reform, universal health care, an society that doesn’t revolve around profit but around standard and quality of living.

  9. Health care 4 all.
    Prosecute and seize the assets of any politician and family who profited from any legislation during their tenure.
    Environmental issues to be correctly addressed.

  10. I agree! Most people have forgotten the Fairness doctrine. The other item on my list is for the US: review the Electoral College. Is it necessary? does it accomplish what it was originally intended to & do we need a revised version.

  11. I wish Medicare treated their clients more fairly. They only allow 21 days for skilled nursing care and then usually stop paying.
    I wish SNAP benefits covered paper products, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene products for low income clients.
    I wish veterans had an easier time applying for benefits from the government. Have you seen the VA website? Yikes

  12. My 3 wishes…
    Fairness Doctrine – now wouldn’t a return to this be nice.

    Politeness. If we could get away from finger-pointing and move on helping our fellow man…

    Climate change. We have made a good start with reducing plastics use but if we could start implementing ways of recycling the rest of what gets used…

    Healthcare. Living in Canada, I’m extremely grateful for our healthcare system. It isn’t perfect but when you start comparing it to other countries, it is really good. Cases like teens dying because they don’t have insurance to pay for hospital care should never, ever happen. Ever.

  13. Continued health for my family is my one wish. In this age of social media we have become our own worse critics. People thing the social distancing doesn’t apply to them they’re exempt, it’s all fake, take your pick.

  14. I think I’d wish that we took education more seriously in this country. School closings during this pandemic not withstanding, we don’t seem to be worried about the lessons and knowledge kids are missing, but PROM and Graduation. These are absolutely important milestones in a young person’s life, but I’ve yet to hear anyone express concern for the information (data, concepts, ideas, history, etc) students are missing out on. Several states near me are closed for the year. Experts across the nation are telling us what they do know, but many times I’ve sen random opinion supersede this information. Even before COVID19, we ignored experts (climate change?). I’m not saying everything they say should have angelic chorus accompaniment, but a wee bit more respect and consideration would help humanity immeasurably.

  15. I wish people would get the same pay for doing the same job. It use to make me so mad that my male colleagues would earn a few hundred dollars more just because they are guys.

  16. I know this is especially applicable to the United States but, considering the influence we have internationally, in the arena of government we need to overturn the Citizens United decision. It’s beating a dead horse (sorry, Grace!) to state the many reasons why this needs to be done but suffice it to say it is very bad law.

  17. I don’t want to fix the whole world just my part of it.

    My first wish would be better health care that we can afford.

    My second would be more affordable schooling. With good paying job at the end With out being thousands of dollars in debt.

    Third would be more affordable housing. I live in an RV because I can’t afford rent on my income without my husbands. He is now disabled so we are in a catch 22. Not enough money to do the stuff we need to and to much to get public assistance.

  18. I would like to see a return of etiquette. The “treat people how you want to be treated” aspect, especially. Many people are so convinced that the rules don’t apply to them. Who told them that anyway? An example: I have a No Soliciting sign next to my door. I have pointed it out to a couple of people who knocked on my door and began a sales pitch. One person apologized profusely for not seeing the sign, and went on his way after saying “Have a nice day.” Another person told me that the sign was purchased and didn’t apply to him. Say what? I told this person that he had better get off of my property before I called the police. I was polite to both men and was treated with politeness and sincere apology by only one. I am not at peace within when I have to threaten people who have overstepped the boundaries of etiquette. When people argue that etiquette is outmoded and not necessary in today’s society, I am very eager to tell them that etiquette isn’t just about using the right fork. It is about treating others politely so everyone can live together more harmoniously.

  19. The problem with reinstating the Fairness Doctrine is that you would never get agreement as to what was true and what was opinion. There are people today who believe the most outlandish conspiracy theories because they have been told that reasonable sources ARE lies and they believe it. I see no way to solve this.

  20. The best change to society as a whole would be to provide free education to all. Education is the key to getting rid of poverty the world over.

  21. Thank you for the info on the Fairness Doctrine. I have never heard of it before, but we really need it now! Too many people believe that the “TV news is the “Truth”, when really they are being told what they can say and show.

  22. That people in charge as well as the population would listen to the doctors and scientists.

    You wouldn’t have to worry about the healthcare workers not having enough PPE to protect themselves and others. My youngest is a healthcare worker – CRA – and does not have any PPE to see her patients at this time.

    People would stop hoarding.

  23. If there were one thing I could change, it would be to improve the education of our population. I believe that were we as a whole better educated, we would not fall for the lies, mistruths and obfuscations being fed to us on a daily basis. I know this would not help the immediate situation at hand, but my belief in the motto, “This too shall pass” makes me look to the future and avoiding similar catastrophes.

  24. What a wonderful idea, Grace! As a former journalist, I want to cry at the calls of “Fake News.” Interestingly, in Canada, at least, people are really relying on the media during the pandemic. It gives me hope!

    Looking forward to your upcoming release as a bright spot in all of this. Thanks for cheering us up with intelligent, decent protagonists!

    Stay healthy,


  25. I’m a journalist, retired (do we ever really do that?). Just last night, as we were watching a documentary on various attempts to sabotage the Meuller report, I broached this very issue with my husband. When we were in journalism school we had to take a “media law” course, which covered accuracy, full, fair and factual reporting. He said (and now I must admit he was correct) that there is currently no law that punishes published untruths. I said that there were both case law and Supreme Court decisions — People vs. Croswell,
    (the dissent of Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Abrams v. United States (1919) and Gitlow v. New York (1925)), Near vs. Minnesota (1931), Times v. Sullivan (1964), New York Times Co. v. United States [Pentagon Papers] (1971), etc. — on libel and protected speech. Whereas I agree with you and also wish that the Fairness Doctrine could be reinstated, I see no possibility of it happening until there’s a thorough housecleaning in all branches of government.

  26. While teaching Health to grade niners and trying to get a discussion going, something hit me: these kids thought that if you disagreed with them, you disliked them. It seems, these days, this holds true among most ages. So #1, reinstate healthy, respectful discussion; instead of debate with ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, talk that leads to understanding if not agreement.
    #2, if integrity is doing the right thing, even if others aren’t watching or applauding, let’s have it back.
    And #3, I’ve always thought that in my ideal world, instead of responding with fear and loathing to those who are different, we’d respond with curiosity & ‘that’s so interesting, tell me more!’

  27. Civility and education, yeah, gosh, that would be great. As would universal health care.

    I started coming up with my list before I read any of the other comments, so the two things that I came up with are a little different.

    1. Better energy storage. We’re doing okay gradually coming up with better energy generation, like solar and wind production, but how to store it for times when the wind or sun aren’t up are behind the curve. Not to mention when you need energy to go from one place to another.
    Originally this started out as my thinking about desalination and cleaning the oceans. Desalination because a lot of international poverty and violence are because of lack of water and arguments about who owns what water there is. Desalination in quantity is technically possible, but because it costs a lot in terms of energy it’s not being used anywhere near as widely as it could be. And because of lack of water, people starve because they have no water for crops. People are forced to migrate because they can’t grow crops. Their dirt is blowing away because there is no water to grow any cover crops, trees or any other vegetation. The native flora and fauna are decimated. Nations fight wars with other nations because of lack of water, or because they disagree strongly over who owns a river that goes through several countries. This is the root cause of much of the international violence today. We’re very, very lucky in much of the U.S. and Canada to not suffer from this, although I can hear a lot of Californians starting to stand up to object.
    So, cleaning the oceans. It would require techniques, which we can come up with, but whatever we do, it will almost certainly require energy. And the energy will need to be used far away from land, probably on a constantly moving platform.

    2. Civility and lots more education are fine things. But I also wish we had better ways to define economic costs and describe them in an easy-to-understand, uniform fashion, like a back-of-the-box “Nutrition Facts” for economic costs. At least with the corona virus we’re all getting better at reading graphs and tables. But imagine if every bridge came with a uniform label, telling you when it was built, how long it was expected to stand, how much it would cost to replace in total dollars and how much it would cost per person to replace, how many dollars in merchandise pass over it, or how many workers cross it per year.
    It would be good to do something like this for health and safety costs too, like economies of coal vs black lung, or costs of building near the coast vs hurricanes and storm surge. The statistics exist, but they’re not uniform, and if you need local info you need to dig for it.
    Along the lines of easy to understand statistics, NOVA on PBS recently had a program that described what would happen if cars instead of polluting the air dropped their carbon on the road in the form of charcoal briquettes. I quote “So, if the average American car gets around 25 miles to the gallon, that means that every 25 miles, you’re dumping five pounds of “car turds” out of your tailpipe.” And wouldn’t that be a great easy-to-understand, uniform, way to show the economic costs of vehicle pollution?

    Once the statistics are out there for everyone, and are easy to understand, then we can start talking, hopefully intelligently and with civility, about whether the statistics have taken everything into consideration, and what to do to stop the various social problems that have been described.

    Love your books.

    P.G. Wodehouse’s short stories are wonderful stress reading. And he’s one of these writers who can really write, too.