Saturday, August 24, 2013

REASONABLE DOUBT

Justice is never black-and-white, of course, despite our best and worse intentions. Sometimes the innocent are executed. Sometimes the guilty go free. Justice is subjective.

The standard for conviction in criminal court is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, an artful ambiguity defined by judges as proof that leaves a juror "firmly convinced" the defendant did the deed. Kinda sorta maybe convinced isn't good enough, and beyond a shadow of a doubt is too high a standard. Reasonable doubt is like the just-right bed Goldilocks jumps into, and let's face it, her standard for just-right sleep comfort is sketchy — she's sleeping in a goddamned bear's den, for chrissakes.

As in justice, so in life: doubts cloud the future for everyone. Only the supremely serene and the terminally stupid press forward without caution.  It's all about weighing the ups and downs and making a best guess at the outcome. There's nothing exact about it. And the doubts only grow as one gets deeper into the game.

When I left a radio station in Bolivar to become news director at a public-radio station in Springfield, I was almost certain that was the right move. Leaving KSMU for a newspaper: I was sure beyond a reasonable doubt. Leaving the News-Leader to start a magazine: more doubts, but what the hell. Leaving 417 to start a PR company: hmm. Returning to journalism by becoming a TV news producer: what the hell do I know about TV news?

The doubts grew as I grew, but they were a decent motivator. Had I succumbed to the naysayer's voice in my head I would have missed out on several adventures, including slipping a nipple picture into the first issue of 417 (think of it as an erogenous-zone homage to Where's Waldo). The doubt was a good thing, even when I cast it aside.

There is only one part of my life where I experienced no doubt. Naturally, that's the place where I was totally wrong. That said, I have no regrets and would do it again without hesitation. I would plead terminal stupidity, but it was more a case of supreme serenity. I was certain, I was serene. And we all know what they say about serenity now.

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