Monday, July 27, 2009

The Journalist's Job

Walter Cronkite died two weeks ago. Many people couldn’t care less. They were not alive in 1963 when Cronkite told the nation about the assassination of President Kennedy or in 1969 when he shared the national excitement about men on the moon.

After I learned of his passing, I went to the Internet to read more about him. There were many tribute articles and long lists of quotations. One in particular got me thinking. Cronkite said, “"It's not the journalist's job to be patriotic."

I disagree. One of the most patriotic persons I can think of is the journalist who is doing his or her job - ferreting out and telling the truth, however painful or unpleasant that truth may be.

Where would we be today if journalists had thoroughly investigated Wall Street or mortgage lending practices or the state of affairs in Iraq? Would not the country be better served by reporters who investigate facts and tell us the reality behind corporate or governmental press releases instead of parroting the words from them? What if all those talking heads had taken the time to explain to us derivatives, interest-only mortgages or Persia as Cronkite did Watergate?

There are people in broadcasting who call themselves journalists but who don’t have the faintest idea how to do the job. They spend a lot of time telling us how patriotic they are but they don't "present a detailed account" of anything but their own opinions.

Is the patriot the one who fawns over the emperor’s finery or is the true patriot the one who tells us the emperor is naked?

Communication is one of the most precious gifts we humans have. How we use it determines our fate. With Cronkite gone and those who followed him retired, who will communicate the facts to us? Where will we go to learn the truth so we have the knowledge necessary to be patriots ourselves?

Walter Cronkite and his journalistic integrity will be not be missed by most. The majority of people don't know what they've lost with his passing.

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