Round Earth Media

“A Gut Check Moment?”

January 27, 2017

In more than 35 years as a journalist, I can’t recall a front page headline in a respected newspaper with this explosive 3-letter word.

This headline in Monday’s New York Times was not on an opinion piece or editorial.  It was the front page headline on a news story.

Lie.  It’s a word that doesn’t bother former CBS news anchor, Dan Rather.

“When something is, in fact, a demonstrable lie, it is our responsibility to say so. Journalism, as I was taught it, is a process of getting as close to some valid version of the truth as is humanly possible….Our role is to call it as we see it, based on solid reporting. …As I have said before and will say as long as people are willing to listen, this is a gut check moment for the press.”

Indeed.  And journalists don’t agree on how to proceed.Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Gerard Baker, said his paper won’t use the word “lie,” adding that would imply a “moral intent” to the statements.  He said reporters should simply state the facts.

“I think then it’s up to the reader to make up their own mind,” said Baker.

Baker and Rather express the same goal — providing the news and information we need in order to make informed decisions as citizens — but they deeply disagree on how to do that.  Add to this the worrisome fact that Americans already overwhelmingly say news organizations are biased — only about two-in-ten Americans (22%) trust the information they get from local news organizations and even fewer (18%) say the same of national organizations.
It’s never been more challenging to be a journalist. Or a citizen.

One thing seems certain — we’re in this together.

Warmest regards,
Mary

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