On February 17, President Trump tweeted that “the fake news media” was “not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
The controversy the president ignited is still raging but, the press can cite Jefferson, John Adams and Hamilton as strong supporters of the press as a check on government institutions. No doubt they didn’t think the press was an “enemy of the people.”
Yet there are aspects of the political scene today that make one hesitant to praise the press too highly.
We have bred a new race of pundits and pontificators whose chief function seems to be to interpret the results of polls and thereby “analyze” how the American people feel. Often, when I hear a pundit speak, I wonder how anyone can talk definitely about the thoughts or feelings of the American people without speaking directly to them. That’s what solid reporters do. And it’s not that difficult if one can get off his or her chair and venture into the field.
The pollsters, pundits, and pontificators were mostly wrong in the last election. It’s an easy way to make talk but a poor way to actually understand the opinions or emotions out there.
If, after 60 years in the news business I were training someone to be a reporter, I would advocate that, first and foremost, you have to talk directly to the people. Statistics are a poor substitute for face to face, eyeball to eyeball interviewing.
Various journalism experts have promulgated codes of ethics. These codes properly stress truth, independence, accountability, fairness, accuracy, honesty in reporting news.
But I would say that a key element in good journalism is the pursuit of truth literally. You can’t sit on your butt and do solid coverage of news.
Lamentably, that is too often the case. Getting the news is a pursuit, literally. “Go get ‘em” is an ethical imperative of good journalism.
BY: Gabe Pressman, NBC New York Senior Correspondent