Thursday, April 10, 2008

Moyers on 'Journalists as Truth-Tellers'

American journalism is in a crisis. Public trust is down. Coverage is narrow and craven. We're in one of the longest wars and the volume of coverage is down. In these times corporate ownership dilutes and filters mainstream media and the hijacking of alternative press with faux-weeklies puts dance instructions on par with water contamination.


Journalist Bill Moyers, who hosts 'Bill Moyers Journal' on PBS, is an icon of what journalism used to be. Below is an excerpt of remarks he delivered at the fifth annual Ridenhour Prize awards ceremony, sponsored by The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation.

For the full speech go here:

"The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. We journalists are of course obliged to cover the news, but our deeper mission is to uncover the news that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

Unless you are willing to fight and re-fight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work with nuts going over every last detail to make certain you've got it right, and then take all of the slings and arrows directed at you by the powers that be -- corporate and political and sometimes journalistic -- there is no use even trying. You have to love it and I do...

Temptation to co-option is the original sin of journalism, and we're always finding fig leaves to cover it: economics, ideology, awe of authority, secrecy, the claims of empire. In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq we were reminded of what the late great reporter A.J. Liebling meant when he said the press is 'the weak slat under the bed of democracy.'..."

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