With all due respect to Secretary Albright, her belief in American exceptionalism is in conflict with anti-fascism. Exceptionalism is an ideology based on the premise that one nation is superior to others; that one race is more worthy than another; that “God is on our side.” Exceptionalism justifies the theft of other nations’ land and natural resources. American exceptionalism is based on the chauvinistic white supremacy that led to the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans, the overthrow of elected foreign leaders whose policies are unpopular with the US corporate oligarchy, and many other crimes against humanity. As a nation, we must once and for all reject a foreign policy based on perpetual war and violence, simply to enrich ourselves at the expense of others. We cannot continue to support fascist regimes such as Saudi Arabia, based solely on America’s selfish economic interests. U.S. exceptionalism must be replaced with the idea that all human beings have evolved as equals and should be treated with respect.
— Robert deFreitas, Santa Cruz
I was a working journalist before I could legally drink. On Saturday nights in Durban, South Africa, when most kids in high school were partying with friends, my last job was to hand deliver first-edition copies of the Sunday newspaper where I worked to the police station, the fire station, the hospital and the morgue.
It was a violent time in South Africa. The people had risen up against the injustice of Apartheid to fight for freedom and the region where I grew up was one of the bloodiest. So I persuaded the guys on night shift at the morgue to break the rules and tell me how many dead bodies they had received. I asked so many questions, they gave in and let me count the bodies myself. It mattered because no one knew how many people were dying every night in the political violence. The police had a habit of clearing the dead from the streets so the government could hide the truth.
But on that one night, every week, in that one place, I knew the truth. And no one could take it from me because I learned it first hand.
I do my job today, some 30 years later, the same way I did it then: with an open mind, an open heart and a million questions. There is nothing more human than opinions and bias. To say we have none is dishonest. But what we do have as professional journalists is a simple standard to get us past that: two first-hand sources — question everything and independently verify. I didn’t invent this — I inherited it from people like Edward R. Murrow and I will keep passing it on.
Journalists are not activists. We may share the passion for a particular cause, but our job is to follow the facts wherever they may lead. We can’t ignore something that reflects badly on a noble cause, as an activist might. We have to care about the means as much as the end because our duty is to search for the whole truth.
Nor are we lawyers in a court of law, cherry-picking facts to prove our case. Fortunately, there is only one truth. How we feel about it, how we perceive it, those things are subjective but the truth itself is not.
Above all, we are not propagandists or political operatives. That is not our job.
I have profound respect for my colleagues and for what we as journalists are at our best. Today, as a whole, we are not at our best. Just ask people in towns and cities across this country, as I do. Everywhere I go, people tell me they have lost faith in journalism. It comes from all people, all walks of life and all political stripes.
Frankly, I don’t blame them. Responsibility for this begins with us.
It is a fact that the vast majority of journalists in this country are registered Democrats. The colleges we come from are similarly dominated by one political ideology. This matters today because the reporting has become so one-sided. As we try to figure out why people have lost faith in our profession, let’s start by being honest about who we are.
I would feel the same way if the media were tilted in the opposite direction. It is the one-sided nature of this fight that disturbs me. Is that what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the first amendment?
We dismiss conservative media outlets for their political bias, but we don’t hold liberal media outlets to the same standard. Many journalists who claim to be objective have publicly taken a political stand, saying the urgency of the time justifies a departure from journalistic standards. Yet they ask us to believe their reporting is still unbiased?
It is not hard to find examples of how far we have strayed from reporting standards in the Trump era. A simple example is Time Magazine falsely reporting on President Donald J. Trump’s first day in office, stating that he’d removed a statue of Martin Luther King from the Oval Office. The news went viral. But the writer did not follow the most basic rule of journalism — pick up the phone and ask the White House if it was really gone, and why? The writer late wrote a correction on his Twitter account, stating “The MLK bust is still in the Oval Office. It was obscured by an agent and door.”
Lara Logan says media standards have led to ‘horses–t’ reporting
Did this feed a racist narrative Time and the reporter wanted to advance and believe, so no fact check was needed? I don’t know — did it? We all make honest mistakes and I am no exception. I’ve made a few of my own in three decades of reporting. But consider this mistake alongside 70 other examples on a running list compiled by independent investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who is one of the bravest journalists I know. Is it a mistake when media outlets keep beating the same drum over and over? With our credibility as low as it is today, it’s a question worth asking.
I will be attacked for writing these words. But I welcome these attacks because it tells me my words matter. And I speak on behalf of all journalists who believe in standing up for the truth and honest, independent reporting. Most do not feel free to speak publicly. We live in a free country yet as journalists we are not free.
They can’t attack the substance of our work, so propaganda machines like David Brock and his staff at Media Matters for America, smear, manipulate and invent false narratives driven by their well-funded political agenda. With armies of bots and a stable of journalists that parrot their talking points, they silence and intimidate. They use our criticism of unfairness and bias to falsely accuse us of being conservative. But all of us know, the louder the attack, the closer we are to the truth.
No one owns me. No party, no organization, no corporation. We are free because freedom lives in us. No one gives it to you or takes it away.
And we are strongest when we stand together.