Integrity Matters
March 3, 2004

Like it or not, 'real' news matters most

Question: (E-103)

Dear Jim:

Journalist-historian Richard Reeves was asked to define "real news," and he answered that it's "the news you and I need to keep our freedoms."

What portion of news coverage is essential to our freedoms? What percentage is entertainment, posing as news? What amount is opinion, masquerading under the banner of "fair and balanced news?"


A few excerpts from a speech by Bill Moyers may shed light on our challenges.

In a November keynote speech at the National Conference on Media Reform, Moyers offered the following three quotable and important insights:

  • "Free and responsible government by popular consent just can't exist without an informed public."

My observation is that a growing number of people won't seek information that might challenge their opinions. Associating only with those who are like-minded can lead to a drifting toward ignorance and even irresponsible actions. This is no way to sustain and strengthen any form of free government, most especially a democracy.

  • "The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it."

Most of us recall the wisdom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The challenge for those who would accept social and journalistic responsibilities is to fulfill a dual role: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When the press is free to provide each service, society is stronger, which means our freedoms are safer.

  • "If free and independent journalism committed to tell the truth without fear or favor is suffocated, the oxygen goes out of democracy."

One of the mysteries of a democracy and a free press is that they can exist, often at odds, without seeking the destruction of the other. The integrity of our system (economic, political and cultural) depends upon our ability, and freedom, to disagree without being disagreeable.

"Real news" reporting is always about integrity, intelligence and courage. Integrity provides the platform for truth seeking. Intelligence builds the road to insightful, accurate and thorough research. Courage is a timeless quality and becomes all the more important when the government or any other institution of power and control is tempted to suggest the legitimacy of censorship.

Demand the real news -- the news you and I need to keep our freedoms. It is important, always has been and it always will be.

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