The critical drumbeat against journalism from the president and his most ardent defenders is intensifying; and while all of us in the profession are big boys and girls, used to taking heat from one quarter or another, I thought it might be worthwhile to step to the defense of my brothers and sisters to relate how I’ve seen journalism practiced over nearly six decades in radio.
It’s very simple, really. The dozens of reporters, editors and producers who’ve been my colleagues have pursued their work professionally, ethically and with purpose. Day in and day out, they have done their level best to be accurate and fair.
Of course, like most people, journalists have strongly held personal opinions. But in my experience, those passions are checked at the newsroom door. In that precinct, here’s what matters: “Is it a story?” and, if so, “Are the facts nailed down so it’s reportable?”
After spending nearly 30 years as a network correspondent, I can say unequivocally that in all that time there was never any suggestion that coverage be slanted toward an ideology or in pursuance of an agenda. And never was a story put on the air that was known to be untrue. It didn’t happen. Not once. Ever.
It’s axiomatic that because journalism is a human endeavor, it is imperfect. But respected news organizations understand their credibility is all that stands between them and irrelevance and extinction.
The work of reporting is often not pretty. It may require moving in the shadows with the help of protected sources in order to shine light into corners the powerful would rather stay hidden. And it can be dangerous. As you read this, journalists somewhere in the world are risking their lives to bear witness on your behalf.
That was the case with my friend and radio colleague Cami McCormick. As a CBS News Correspondent, she was on assignment with US Army troops in Afghanistan in August 2009 when the vehicle she was in hit an improvised explosive device. The wounds she received nearly killed her and did cost her part of a leg. But she is tough as nails and battled her way back, so she could keep reporting because, as she told me, “the story’s too important.”
An “enemy of the people” peddling “fake news?” Cami would have a one-word answer.
The newspaper wouldn’t print it.
But I’m pretty sure you know what it is.