Rotary Golf 2024

For the media, traditional values still matter

by | Jun 11, 2015 | Latest

By Lee H. Hamilton

I have been involved in politics and policy-making for over 50 years, and as you can imagine I hold strong feelings about reporters and the media. They’re not what you might think, however.

Far from considering journalists to be irritating pains in the neck — though I’ve known a few who qualified — I believe them to be indispensable to our democracy. Our system rests on citizens’ ability to make discriminating judgments about policies and politicians. Without the news, information, and analysis that the media provides, this would be impossible.

We depend on journalists and the outlets they work for to be our surrogates in holding government accountable; they can serve as a formidable institutional check on the government’s abuse of power.

So I am uneasy about some of the directions I see journalism taking these days. I admire the role that the press has played throughout our history, and fervently hope that it can right itself to play such a role again.

Let me note at the outset that I can find exceptions to everything I’m about to say. There are journalists doing reporting that is clear-eyed, fearless, and grounded in an honest evaluation of the facts — I’m thinking, for instance, of some of the work in recent years on the NSA — and this work has moved the national debate forward.

But far too often, journalism falls short. Reporters often seem to take what politicians and their handlers say at face value, writing what they hear without ensuring that the facts bear it out. They look for winners and losers at the expense of nuance. They strive to give the appearance of even-handedness by creating a false balance between two sides that do not deserve equal weight. They elevate politics, polls and personality over substance and measured analysis.

Too often, on Fox or MSNBC or any of a plethora of broadcast, print and online outlets, they slant the news. They engage in pack journalism, reminding me of blackbirds on a telephone line — one comes and others follow. And they delight in spotlighting the screw-up, the mistake, or the gaffe, which might be entertaining to readers but sheds no light on the underlying issues that could make government better if addressed.

I also worry about the increasingly sophisticated efforts by the government and powerful interests to tell us only what they want us to know. Reporters want to be part of the media elite, and the White House in particular — under presidents of both parties — has become quite skillful at manipulating them. Reporters have to keep policy makers at arms length, and not be intimidated by them.

I believe that much contemporary journalism has come untethered from a set of traditional values that served the country well over many years:
 
– Journalism needs to be in the service of justice, asking questions, telling stories, and inspiring those in power and those who vote for them to do the right thing.

— It should be a check on power, ferreting out the stories that those who hold public office don’t want revealed, and reporting the truths that we, as Americans, have the right to hear.

— It must hold tight to accuracy, intellectual honesty, rigorous reporting, and fairness — values that ought never to go out of style.

— And journalists have a profound responsibility to serve as lie detectors. A couple of years ago, the notable investigative reporter Seymour Hersh gave a speech in London in which he said of the U.S. government in particular, “The Republic’s in trouble. We lie about everything. Lying has become the staple.” You don’t have to go to that extreme to agree that journalists have to be curious and skeptical, and not buy into the conventional wisdom of the establishment.

A robust, inquisitive congressional oversight process should be capable of revealing what is too often hidden, but it’s not. We need journalists to do it.

In the end, my concern is that skeptical reporting and deeply informed investigative journalism are fading. We need more of them, not less. I want to see journalists digging deep into the activities of government, politics, business, finance, education, welfare, culture, and sports. Our Republic depends on it.

Subscribe RH Love

0 Comments

Order photos

Related News

Collin County no stranger to severe storms

Collin County no stranger to severe storms

The tornado that hit Copeville and other parts of Collin County in 2015 did extensive damage. File Art The Federal Emergency Management Agency predicts Collin County has a high risk of tornadoes this year, but that’s nothing new. For starters, more tornadoes have been...

read more
Community discusses disputed development

Community discusses disputed development

Volunteers of Communities & Creeks United hand out yard signs opposing a high density development between Parker and Murphy. Bob Wieland/C&S Media  There’s no longer any question as to who is building a densely packed housing community just west of Southfork...

read more
Police chief talks equipment, personnel requests

Police chief talks equipment, personnel requests

Police Chief Anthony Henderson provided an overview of the department’s proposed five-year plan and talked about staffing issues at a city council work session last week. The police department recently earned the Texas Police Chiefs Best Practices Accreditation, said...

read more
Indian dancers entertain, teach library crowd

Indian dancers entertain, teach library crowd

Tejas Dance students Shrujana Kumar and Mahi Devappa performing at Smith Library Thursday, March 14. Jeremy Hallock/The Wylie News Parents and children showed up at the Smith Public Library last week to watch and learn about classical Indian dance. ...

read more
Plan, prepare now for tornado season

Plan, prepare now for tornado season

This Farmersville mobile home landed on CR 697 due to straight line winds in eastern Collin County in 2019. Courtesy Farmersville FD The three-month Texas tornado “season” begins in April and a new analysis ranks Collin County near the top of the list of 100 most...

read more
Experts discuss fentanyl at WISD event

Experts discuss fentanyl at WISD event

Wylie Police Detective Joshua Rountree, right,shows parents what fentanyl looks like at last week’s seminar held at Burnett Junior High. Jeremy Hallock/The Wylie News Wylie ISD families and community members learned of the dangers of fentanyl, vaping and social media...

read more
Mural will be preserved

Mural will be preserved

Artist Roger Nitz at the mural he painted in 2012 in downtown Wylie facing Olde City Park. The mural, located at 104 S. Ballard Ave., is painted on a building that will soon be razed.  Jeremy Hallock/The Wylie News The mural that has been welcoming visitors at the...

read more
House members helped by governor

House members helped by governor

Three Texas House members from Collin County apparently survived Attorney General Ken Paxton’s attempt to punish them for supporting his impeachment. Another has been forced into a GOP primary runoff with two Paxton-backed challengers. Paxton, who was acquitted by the...

read more
NASA engineer from Wylie wins prestigious award

NASA engineer from Wylie wins prestigious award

Nahum Alem received the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award at the 2024 BEYA STEM Digital Twin Experience (DTX) Conference held in Baltimore last month. Courtesy art An aerospace engineer from Wylie has won one of the industry’s most important honors in science,...

read more
Order photos