As long as a journalist tells the truth, in conscience and fairness, it is not his job to worry about consequences. The truth is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run. I truly believe the truth sets men free. (May 1973)
Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee was born on this day in 1921 (died 2014)
Bradlee, of course, was editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991. He challenged the federal government over the right to publish The Pentagon Papers, a Department of Defense Study of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. Bradlee also had oversight of the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s coverage of the Watergate scandal.
I spent some time in my late high school years (oddly in the era of Watergate) and for a while in college thinking I’d be a journalist, but I took a different route. True, much of the writing I’ve done over the years has been of a journalistic nature and I’ve written for news sites. But I’m not a journalist. I’ve written commentary, political opinion, political snarkery, and I’ve had the chance to edit all kinds of work.
In the days when Bradlee was editing the Post, when there were a few national newspapers and three major networks with men like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley whom the nation trusted, news was different.
It wasn’t a 24-hour-a-day bombardment of information. And perhaps the line between what was really news and what was not was clearer.
Now, thanks to the Interwebz, we’re flooded with “news” stories that really are nothing but propaganda.
How many times a day do you have to go check Snopes.com to find out of a “story” is really true?
Obama did this. Trump did that. Hillary said this. This or that celebrity is dead…again.
Don’t get me started on the Facebook posts that say “like and share this.”
That’s a whole different rant. Just say no.
It used to be that folks could read the newspaper and feel fairly confident that they were getting the real news. Sure, writers have always written from their personal viewpoint.
But we have far more so-called journalists who want to shape opinion rather than report the news.
And really, if you think that your favorite news source, left or right, isn’t biased just go look yourself in a mirror and give yourself a good smack.
I’d love to think there could be honest, unbiased journalism. But personally, I now question every news source. Not just the ones with which I disagree.
Look, I’m totally honest with you. Okay, mostly honest. Okay, I give the appearance of honesty.
But here, on this site, which is currently my major outlet for writing, I speak my opinion. Of course it is the correct opinion. Nonetheless, it is opinion, not journalism.
I think what has happened to journalism has really burdened all of us with more responsibility. We could hope for it to be the responsibility of the journalist to search for and present the truth and, in reality, there are many who still do.
But with all of the other noise, and slant, and propaganda, we’re all going to have to pay a lot closer attention.
Take this election for example. We’re getting hit with it 24 hours day, but we’re not really getting a truthful picture of either candidate.
I tell you the most truthful statement of this post: The majority of the country wants NEITHER of the two major party candidates to be President.
But, one of them will be President. And regardless of which one it is we’ll be bombarded with half of the media telling us it’s the second coming and the other half telling us it’s the end of the world.
Yes, I know those two are related. Work with me, this is not a theology post.
Where am I going with this? Honestly, I don’t know.
See what I just did there?
The point is, I think, that we all have to be more diligent in what we read, what we watch, what we listen to. And we all need to be a little more proactive in seeking the truth through the spin.
In a sense, we’re all journalists now.