by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We journalists have more freedom, more reach, and more ability to inform today than ever before. But with those advantages comes an even greater responsibility to the public, one I fear is being denigrated by journalists who substitute opinion for facts and emotion for dispassion.
Beyond the killings, the threats, and the vitriol, what most threatens journalism today is the behavior of its own practitioners.
We have become too full of our own opinions, too enthralled with our own celebrity, too emotionally offended by warranted and unwarranted criticism, and too astray from the neutral, factual voice our teachers in journalism school insisted we practice.
It was that neutral voice that compelled Americans to welcome television newscasters Walter Cronkite or Peter Jennings into their living rooms each night. It was that commitment to factual reporting without slant that made the morning and evening newspapers mandatory reading.
And it was that relentless but emotionally detached commitment to truth, context and fairness — even when enemies sought to discredit us — that exposed such wrongs as Watergate, the Tuskegee experiments and the deplorable treatments at Walter Reed Hospital.
The traits that have made journalism great and respected and impactful for most of the past century are sorely lacking in many of today’s practitioners.
Instead of facts, many journalists today trade in supposition and opinion. Instead of dispassionate neutral coverage, many have offered emotional rants that border on disrespect. Instead of covering all sides of the story, entire news organizations have chosen to pick one side over another.