The local newspaper ran an article on a political candidate seeking office. The reporter was doing his job, reporting. As is often the case nowadays the local paper can be read on-line and comments can be made on-line. One comment stated that the candidate was an extremist type candidate. The reporter replied that he understands that but was not writing an opinion on the candidate just stating what the candidate had said. Perhaps too often a reader sees an article and believes it to be an opinion. Opinions are good to read even though I may totally disagree with the writer. It is imperative for us the readers to recognize which is reporting and which is the opinion.
The other evening sitting at home I came across the movie Spotlight. This is the movie about the Boston Globe investigating the abuse by various clergy within the Catholic Church. Having lived in New England and being of Irish, catholic descent I could somewhat understand the dilemma the Globe found itself facing. Growing up in New England I know that in the area where I lived there was a substantial Irish-American population. Further I knew most of the police officers and priests were also of Irish descent. I don’t like to generalize but I have to say from personal knowledge and experience it is true. This is the situation the Boston Globe confronted when deciding to investigate the Roman Catholic church including its hierarchy in Boston. This is a very powerful and influential organization. The downside to The Globe and the reporters is huge if they didn’t get it right. Investigative reporting should not be an opinion piece but can require drawing some conclusions and assumptions. Insuring these conclusions are detailed and accurate is critical. Failing to adequately investigate can result in massive loss of readers and employment. It takes integrity, hard work and willingness to risk it all to continue in the face of uncertainty about who is harmed besides the paper itself. This movie is worth viewing particularly in light of the current times. However my purpose is not to provide a movie review.
My first example is contemporary and shows reporters can be challenged or misconstrued for reporting. The second incident is an actual newspaper from the top down risking their business to get out the truth. Integrity best describes both and that is essential to the media, particularly the print media. The current times see the print media particularly local papers declining in numbers. The electronic media seems much stronger but the long-term investigative ability is very limited with the 24 hour news cycle. Speed and competition may take precedence over thoroughness and adequate back up research. Young people under 40 obtain most of their news from their hand-held devices. I don’t intend to demean the electronic media but there is a difference between it and the mainstream print media. Probably due to my age reading newspapers is essential to me. I do use my phone and Ipad and laptop but holding that paper in my hand, reading intimate detail at my pace, seeing follow-up reporting and yes corrections are sometimes necessary that is my best and favored news source.
Why does this matter? The New York Times reminded the President that reporters are truth seekers and their work is important. Their safety in doing their job should be encouraged by all people. When President Trump demeans their work that is a disgrace for him and endangers both our country and our journalists. Politics aside I personally do not respect Mr. Trump as a human being. It would be awful if he truly believed his claims of fake news. It’s worse if he knows it’s truthful and uses the claim of fake news to motivate a group of people who are too blinded by politics to recognize his lies. Manipulating people at the expense of a necessary institution such as the media should be horrifying to any American. In fact totally distorting the news and other situations essential for a free democratic society should be grounds for removal from office either by impeachment or the ballot box. Personally I believe we make changes through the ballot box. If a person believes in our country, our way of life, then they must be seekers of truth not followers of lies.