Have always hoped, somehow, my journalism would make a difference to the world, to its readers, maybe even to voters or policy-makers.
In my early 20s, I tackled a grim and difficult and important story, the testing of cosmetics and other products on animals. I won’t detail what I saw, but I never forgot it, and to see that as a young person is to be changed. I wrote it for a brave editor, the late and much missed Jane Gale Hughes, whose Canadian national magazine — as small in size and apparently unsubstantial as a TV Guide — was called Homemakers.
Its name was misleading, suggesting anodyne chitchat.
Quite the opposite!
Jane, extremely rare for any editor who hopes to keep their job, had to fight the advertising department because, of course, the advertisers of the products being tested would object and pull their lucrative ads.
The ads whose revenue paid her salary and my freelance work for her.
She ran my story anyway and I’m really proud of it and grateful for her belief in me as a younger journalist to produce it.
This tension between money and truth-telling never goes away.
In 2005-6, when I was a reporter for the New York Daily News, then the nation’s sixth-largest paper, I did a huge investigation of the cruise ship industry.
What I learned persuaded me to never take a cruise.
Of course, the editor refused to run my stories — for fear of losing their ad dollars. They finally ran one-half of my work.
Every story that digs deeply.
Every press conference — pure theater! — during which smart journalists ask challenging, tough questions, even in the face of sneers, insults, pompous political lectures and hostility.
It all adds up.
Jose and I are soon at the tail end of long and challenging and satisfying careers in journalism. We remain deeply passionate about the need for intelligent, analytical, critical reporting on every aspect of life.
But both of us were cautioned — long ago — to remember that even a lifetime of our committed excellence, even for the largest and most influential outlets, and all the work of all our talented colleagues, is the equivalent of water drops on stone.
One at a time.
Each story — each image — only a drop.
How can it matter?
Drop after drop — repeated over and over and over and over — as we and others continue the work, and stone wears away.
The past week has offered another look at how men try to bully women — this time an exchange between NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine. He asked, do you think Americans care about Ukraine? He used the F word in that sentence and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes. He called out for his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked. I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said people will hear about this. And then he turned and said he had things to do. And I thanked him, again, for his time and left.
NPR CEO JOHN LANSING: He did not dispute the facts as she reported them based on the conversation that occurred after the interview when he had the expletive-filled rage. I think that’s important to point out. I think it’s also important to point out that Mary Louise Kelly has an email chain with Katie Martin, an aide to the secretary of state, confirming that she would be discussing Ukraine. So that’s a provably false statement. And it’s also important to point out that no journalist would agree to go behind closed doors with the secretary of state and agree to go off the record. That would just be something no honorable journalist would do.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me — and to others who work in journalism — that many many consumers of news, whether print, broadcast, web, have no idea how the news is gathered.
It is not read from sanitized press releases!
It means sitting face to face with a wide array of people, some of whom are physically frightening (a warlord, say) or who can try to destroy your career thanks to their wealth and political power.
They will do everything possible to intimidate us — especially women. Because a woman journalist, doing our job well, often means being “unfeminine” — not deferential, compliant, flirtatious — genuflecting to power automatically.
It is our job, even politely, to question.
To challenge authority, to tell truth to power.
And the best reporting is not — as you’ve seen so often on television and in the movies — done amid a shouting, shoving pack, thrusting cameras and microphones into someone’s face.
No, it’s personal, done privately face to face, often alone in a room with a closed door, and often with a powerful man accustomed to nodding, smiling agreement.
No woman journalist worth her pay is someone scared to enter those rooms, to gain access in the first place.
We don’t sit there with a boss or colleague or chaperone along to make sure we’re safe and comfy.
We know things can get heated.
I’ve had my share of men — and women — trying to scare me off a story. I worked as a reporter at the NY Daily News for a year, when it was still the nation’s sixth-largest newspaper. Tabloids chase stories hard.
I’d been there a few weeks when some flack (PR person) for the New York state government (i.e. my taxes paid his salary) started shouting at me on the phone because he disliked my questions. I told him to calm down and call me back when he was able to be civil.
Instead, he called my (male) boss to complain about me — to mess with me.
Inside that newsroom, the large photo editor also decided to raise his voice to me. I told him that wasn’t going to solve the problem. He, too ran to my boss.
See a pattern here?
I can’t count the number of times in my career — as a reporter for three major daily newspapers — and as a freelance journalist, that someone who disliked my inquiries has tried to bully me, to intimidate me, to shame or embarrass me into shutting up and going away.
Here’s what you need to know.
The best journalists have one job that’s very clear to us — we represent YOU, the audience:
The (relatively) powerless.
So, like soldiers heading into battle, we know it’s part of our job to take some verbal hits, to withstand sneers and derision.
It’s a point of pride that we do, and keep going, and sometimes actually get to the truth.
I know two people right now whose teenagers, both from very privileged backgrounds, are eager to become journalists.
They like to write and are determined and curious.
But the sheer number of factors and skills — soft and hard — that allow for decent journalism go far far beyond knowing or liking how to write.
— Knowing how to listen, carefully and attentively, to everyone you interview — whether face to face, by Skype or phone. Email is the worst because you have no way of knowing who actually wrote it. Listening carefully is tiring and difficult sometimes. Without it, we get nothing of value.
— Knowing how to make total strangers feel (more) at ease with us. This runs both ways, as it can be also be highly manipulative. But unless we can get people we’ve never met, and who may be very different from us in education, ethnicity, race, religion or political views, to open up, we’ve got nothing. This requires the ability to tune into others quickly and effectively.
— Knowing how hard it is to get a job anywhere but in three expensive major cities.
The journalism job hunt can be particularly challenging between the coasts. Last year, Emma Roller, 30, took a buyout after working as a politics writer for the website Splinter, which was part of Univision’s Gizmodo Media Group. She got married and moved from Washington to Chicago to be closer to family. But as she looked for a new job, she found many positions required that she live in New York, Washington or Los Angeles.
— Knowing what makes a story compelling. You can waste a lot of time and energy — yours and theirs — asking stupid or irrelevant questions. Know what your readers/audience care most about. Get that.
— Knowing when to stop digging, and when to dig harder. Too many lazy, tired and overworked journalists, mostly digital, are merely rewriting press releases or aggregating others’ work. But when you’re reporting a real story, you have limited time and budget to get it. What’s key? What haven’t you understood fully yet?
— Knowing that some stories are going to harm us, physically and/or emotionally. For every corporate blablabla “profile”, there’s a powerful and important story being reported about rape, sexual abuse, violence, crime, gun massacres, war…These are the stories that can boost a writer’s career but at a significant cost in secondary trauma.
— Knowing we represent our audience. Too many journalists think it’s all about them. They preen on social media and prize their thousands of “followers”….and say nothing interesting. The job of a journalist is to dig, question, challenge authority and be accurate.
— Knowing our work has consequences. For better or worse. If someone cannot be safely identified as a source, you don’t do that.
There’s a new (to me!) six-part UK TV show, “Press” I just started watching, about the values and ethics and behaviors of two rival newspaper staffs, both their reporters and the editors who tell them what to do.
These large laminated tags are usually press credentials that make clear who’s allowed into an event and allowed to get close to the action.
By Caitlin Kelly
For those of you who still care about the quality of journalism, a few insights from a career journalist who has been a reporter for three major daily papers and who freelances (i.e. sells individual stories I come up with) often for The New York Times.
Where do story ideas originate?
Some of the many ways:
— A press release from a company, individual or organization. It’s unlikely that only one release is the entire story, unless for the trade/industry press. Journalists, staff and freelance are pelted daily with hundreds of press releases from people who want us to write (favorably!) about them.
— A tipfrom someone inside an agency or organization who wants this information made (more) public and possibly deeply investigated for misdeeds or wrongdoings.
— A conversation with someone in an industry or field about interesting or new developments.
— A cultural trend we hear, see or notice out in the world on our own.
— An upcoming event, for which we write or produce a “curtain-raiser”, a story than runs in advance of the event.
— An anniversary of a major event, five, ten, 20 or more years later. What, if anything, has changed since then?
— We all really want a “scoop”— a powerful story no one else has
How do we know if it actually is a story?
–– Fact-check.We make calls, send emails and texts, check in with sources we know are smart and trustworthy to confirm or deny the basic facts of the story.
— Firsthand reporting. Always the ideal to have a reporter/photographer/video crew on-site.
— Talk to firsthand witnesses, but that’s also tricky because they may be lying. It’s happened, which is deeply embarrassing.
What happens next?
— Every reporter, in every medium, has a boss! That person (or people) have the final say as to whether this story will even ever appear or get the time and energy needed to report, research, revise and edit it that they think it deserves; five minutes on-air (a lot!) or 500 words in the paper or on-line or 5,000 words in a glossy magazine.
— The reporter/producer (teams, generally in broadcast) work together to decide how to proceed and in what depth and at what speed. Breaking news is insanely competitive so there’s a mad rush to get the story first or exclusively.
— If the story needs a lot of reporting and interviewing (documents, on-site reporting, speaking to sources) the reporter needs to decide who to speak to, when, why and in what order. If the story is controversial or potentially damaging, many people will refuse to discuss it, which means digging for more sources and/or persuading some to speak without using their names or affiliations to protect them.
— If the story is happening very far away from the newsroom, the decision will be made to send a staff correspondent (costly) or possibly use a local freelancer, called a stringer, exclusively or in addition to the staffer’s reporting.
— On truly major stories, there can be as many as a dozen reporters sending in various elements they have gathered and a writer in the newsroom (originally called rewrite) will craft it all together into one cohesive narrative, with credits for each contributor added at the bottom.
— For anyone who loves to insist it’s all “fake news”, I can assure you much of it is not. Every major news/publishing outlet has a lawyer either on staff or someone they turn to regularly to make sure the story is safe to publish.
— If the magazine or outlet has the staff and budget, and many do not, they hire and pay fact-checkers to do exactly what the name implies; check every fact to make sure it is accurate, after the reporter is finished.
— Graphics, design, podcast, video and photo editors decide the best ways to present visuals to accompany the story: a drawing? a graph? a map? a photo essay or slideshow gallery?
— For anything going into print, careful space measurements allow for design and page placement of all elements: copy, visuals and the all-essential advertisements that help pay for all of this! For digital, visuals count as well, plus SEO.
My best advice for consuming any form of media/reporting is to choose multiple sources, not only one set of political or national views. I read The New York Times and Financial Times (UK) daily, listen to NPR and occasionally the Washington Post and LosAngeles Times. I also see news from many other sources, like Canada’s CBC, through Twitter.
Is there something you’d like to better understand about journalism? Ask away!
Sixty percent think that we are paid by our sources all the time or often.
I would laugh at this stupidity, but find this level of ignorance stunning and deeply depressing.
A friend who works in digital media — which I admit I read very little of — says it’s because there’s such an overlap of commercial messaging and editorial and the lines aren’t clear to readers and publishers don’t make it clear enough.
Let’s get this straight — and, I beg each one of you,tweet this blog post. Email it. Share it with everyone you know, at any age.
We are not paid by our sources!
If a journalist is discovered to be doing this, they’re a cheat and a fraud and will get fired and shamed and shunned by anyone who still understands what we are supposed to be doing.
When I write about X company or Y product or Z person, I do so because they’re deemed sufficiently interesting by the editor who agreed to pay me to write about them, not because the damn company or person paid me to perform a public relations function.
Web writing pay rates are a sick joke, so an “argument” gets made that writers don’t make enough money which leaves them open to suborning.
Welcome to the dubious new world of payola journalism, where publicists like Prokopi have carved out a niche arranging undisclosed payments to financially strapped reporters and bloggers in exchange for friendly media coverage of clients. If you want to understand the vulnerable state of the news industry, don’t just consider the thinning newsrooms of national publications — look at the writers who are being paid to plug brands on sites like Forbes and the Huffington Post.
Yet this week I got a phone call, at home in New York, from some stranger who said — no joke — I want you to place a story for me in The New York Times; I’ve been freelancing for the Times for decades.
I lost my shit.
“Do you have any idea how journalism works?!” I asked him. “What makes you think this is even possible? I don’t work there. I’m not the publisher nor an editor.”
Cowed, he said: “I do now.”
A Twitter pal sent me this terrific blog post she wrote; if you want to seriously understand what we do and why, it’s a great read.
Here’s a bit of it:
The last story I wrote for S&P Global Market Intelligence was about the suicide crisis in the northern Ontario town of Attawapiskat, and whether an unfair deal with a diamond miner may have contributed to this outbreak.
I chose to do the story because the Attawapiskat suicide crisis was major news, with every news outlet covering it. Missing from almost all that coverage? The role of a diamond mining company operating near the town, and whether that company had reneged on its agreements to provide jobs, opportunities and development for indigenous residents of the isolated town.
Before I spoke to anyone, I first had to dig in and do reams of research. I investigated what the indigenous population had said in the past about their dealings with the mining firm, as well as any documents the firm made available on the nature of its agreement with the local community. I looked into what mining associations and Aboriginal groups said about the town and the mining industry, and read many reports from Canadian think tanks about Aboriginal-resource company relations and how it had changed over the last 20 years.
Armed with that information, I then hit the phones.
I called everyone – the mining company, the local governance association, a Canada-wide group representing Aboriginals in their dealings with the natural resource industry, firms which advised Aboriginal groups on how to negotiate effectively with resource firms, and law firms specialising in representing Aboriginal claims to resource companies (and the diamond mining company, which wasn’t talking). Each interview took a few hours to set up, involved at least 1 hour on the phone. Following this, after each interview, I double-checked my notes, doing what I could to ensure I transcribed the quote correctly, and followed up with the source if my notes were unclear at any point.
So now that I’d done research and interviews, you’d think I would be done. But I wasn’t.
Want to better understand anything about journalism?
To those who’ve never worked in journalism, it’s easy to forget — or simply not know about — the many hidden talents that make radio, print, digital and television coverage possible.
They include coders, graphic designers, layout people, researchers, fact-checkers and copy editors.
While on-air anchors earn millions, and reporters and photographers, out in public are visible, without cameramen and women, young and hungry interns, production assistants and bookers, none of it is possible.
One of the things my husband, a career photographer and photo editor, and I enjoy is that journalism really is a team sport; without all those talents, it just doesn’t happen.
Here’s a fantastic story from The Walrus, arguably Canada’s quirkiest and most interesting national magazine (for whom I soon hope to be writing!), about the eight women who ran the switchboard of the Toronto Star. Their genius was essential in an era before Google and social media made our jobs — i.e. finding people fast — so much easier.
To the reporters at the Star, the switchboard seemed capable of working miracles. And its feats were all due to dedication of eight women. Most came to the job with a background working switchboards, but the ones who stuck around were those who had the grit to call up dozens of people in the hopes of finding a source and then were persuasive enough keep them on the line. They took the job seriously: lugging yellow pages back from vacations abroad, leaving their home-phone numbers with reporters in case they were needed in a pinch, and working with reporters to revive leads that seemed long dead.
One of those operators was Eva Cavan, the switchboard’s supervisor for over three decades, who once tracked down the Star’s Washington correspondent by calling up every shop along Pennsylvania Avenue until a pharmacist was able to ID the reporter. During her tenure, Cavan’s team found the prime suspect in the 1972 Olympics massacre, located Terry Fox in Newfoundland by calling up stations he was likely to stop at, and convinced a control tower to delay takeoff so that the Ontario health minister could disembark and take a call with the Star.
I remember with fondness the operators at the Globe and Gazette, one of whom handed me the piece of paper informing me my French mentor had died.
This past weekend was a painful and emotional reminder that colleagues can be much more than the next guy or gal in the cubicle.
We attended the funeral of a man we all thought would live to his 90s, for sure, but who was struck down at 70 quickly and brutally by a rare cancer.
Zvi Lowenthal worked for 44 years at The New York Times, but you never read his name.
My husband worked for seven years inches from Zvi, an avid tennis player who — with Jose, his fellow photo editor — assigned and chose every photo for The New York Times’ business section. They were, according to their co-workers, an old married couple, and it was a good match: Jose is calm, steady, ice in his veins when the shit hits the fan. Zvi was warm, kind, meticulous, the kind of guy who made sure that freelancers got paper copies of their images, a gesture very few editors would ever bother to make.
And, when Jose was a Times photographer, Zvi had also been his editor. While Jose enjoyed seeing his name in the paper with every photo he took — in newspaper parlance his “agate” — editors never do.
The team managed to keep pictures coming through the most terrifying economic crisis since the Depression. It’s not easy to illustrate corporate malfeasance!
Today, American journalists are derided by the President, of all people, as “fake” and “disgusting”, inciting violence against us at his rallies.
Our skills and dedication — visible or less so — remain essential to a functional democracy.
Turns out, she changed her name repeatedly, took money from writers to help with their manuscripts and promised them access to some of the toughest outlets — she’d sold an essay to The New York Times’ column Modern Love, the equivalent in our world of winning a Nobel Prize; at a NYC conference this spring, I heard its editor, Daniel Jones, tell a crowded room the odds of getting published there are worse than getting into Harvard, (whose acceptance rate is 5.6 percent.)
March knew exactly which buttons to push to enlist ambitious women and lure them into her schemes:
Everyone’s desperate for access to the top editors and agents. Rejection is wearying and dis-spiriting and anyone who says they’ll make it easier…sign me up!
No one can do this work alone, and many of us (me, included) coach other writers. Isolation often means over-relying on social media to connect with people who says they’re a peer, and assuming the people offering you their help — for money — are legit. The difference? I’ve actually published two books.
Puhleeze. She was quite skilled at persuading women what a great and supportive feminist she is. I’m a tough old boot so this shit doesn’t do a thing for me; actions, not words.
Writing is a lonely and difficult business so when someone is supportive and kind, you think, whew! She gets it.
Here’s a bit of the story:
March had never published a book but had been quietly working literary Los Angeles’ social media connections for months. A spunky, unapologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell, she was supportive and flattering. She was also conspicuously generous — concerned about the line of people waiting to get into the party, March asked a pair of new acquaintances if she should give $20 bills to those stuck on the sidewalk. The bill for the night would total more than $22,000.
Why is she doing this? people asked, stealing glances at March.
Some had a larger question:
If something or someone sounds too good to be true…it usually is.
Media conglomerate Tronc bought The Daily News in September, adding it to a stable of other newspaper and magazines that includes The Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.
The Daily News, once the country’s largest-circulation newspaper, has been among the most aggressive New York City publications in its coverage of President Donald Trump, with the newspaper’s cover often needling Trump about recent scandals or missteps.
The paper has received 11 Pulitzer Prizes including one in 2017 in conjunction with nonprofit investigative organization ProPublica for coverage of evictions based on obscure laws that pushed business owners and residents from their property.
My year at the News was the weirdest, most stressful and eye-opening of my career in journalism — and I’d already worked for the Toronto Globe & Mail and the Montreal Gazette, both broadsheets, a name that denotes the physical size of a newspaper as much as its more sombre approach to news.
The News is a tabloid, a whole new world.
I hadn’t worked in a newsroom in 20 years when I was hired there, thanks to a manager I’d known and worked with in Montreal who came to New York from Chicago to run the paper.
For him, and for me, it was a poor match; he’s British and Canadian and didn’t know the five boroughs of New York City intimately, tribal lore for anyone working at the News. Neither did I.
The paper used to inhabit a gorgeous Art Deco building on 42d Street; I arrived to their offices on the very western end of 33rd Street, sharing a building with the Associated Press.
The newsroom didn’t even have cubicles, just a huge bullpen stretching a full city block, sunlight straggling in through clerestory windows.
I stepped into a 1940s movie, full of guys in suspenders and gold chains who liked to yell at one another and saw two co-workers edge up to a fist-fight over a noisy cellphone.
As my manager-to-be greeted me for my job interview, he eyed my outfit, (no blazer or jacket): “You packing?” My first book was about women and guns.
As a reporter there, I quickly discovered a city I hadn’t known before — the News’ reader’s median household income was $44,000 — maybe a healthy salary elsewhere but not much in New York City.
I drove alone to Harlem and the Bronx and Queens, getting to know its lower-income neighborhoods and residents. (I once got into such an altercation in the Bronx over a street parking spot I had to call the cops in fear of attack.)
I did a stake-out in Midtown in sweltering summer heat and humidity, which meant sitting on the sidewalk for hours — surrounded by all the competing press — waiting to nab an interview with a Quebec tourist who’d been attacked. (I got the assignment after the city editor hollered into the newsroom: “Who speaks French?!”)
I kept sneaking into the hotel to find her, only to be caught and thrown out by a furious security guard. This, after a New York Times reporter followed me into the elevator, guessing I knew where I was going and trying to match it.
I ducked into the ladies’ restroom to ditch him.
I interviewed an African-American family who showed me a blanket with images woven into it of their slain son.
I spoke with legal aid attorneys in the Bronx.
I interviewed the father of a soldier whose helicopter had fallen off a mountaintop in Afghanistan and women soldiers suffering from PTSD.
I broke a national story about how many crimes occur on cruise ships that, for many reasons, go unreported and unaddressed.
We spent a brutal afternoon listening to 911 calls from the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Digital advertising has stripped away newspapers’ primary income stream, and newsgathering — even with crappy salaries — isn’t cheap.
It’s a tough time now to be a staff newspaper reporter.
One of the many reasons I still enjoy journalism — after working in it for more than 30 years — is the people who choose to do it for a living: smart, sharp, a quick learner, down-to-earth and a team player.
I’ve worked as a staff reporter and feature writer for the Globe & Mail, Montreal Gazette and New York Daily News, each of which offered some wild adventures. At the Globe, I covered a Royal Tour across three provinces and met Queen Elizabeth aboard Brittania; at the Gazette I flew into an Arctic village of 500 people and came home through an iceberg and at the Daily News broke stories like the DHS — back in 2006 — holding onto migrant children.
If you’re not, always, insatiably curious — the kid who drove your parents and teachers and professors mad with questions and challenges — it’s not a great fit.
It is our job to challenge authority.
Right now in the United States, we’re massively and daily under attack, even to the point of murder — as five journalists, a mix of writers and editors, were murdered at a small local paper in Maryland, The Capital Gazette.
One week after the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, President Donald Trump put an end to any speculation that the tragedy could lead to a truce in his unrelenting war on the news media.
“Fake news. Bad people,” Trump said, pointing at the news crews covering his rally Thursday in Great Falls, Montana, as the crowd went wild.
“I see the way they write. They’re so damn dishonest,” Trump said. “And I don’t mean all of them, because some of the finest people I know are journalists really. Hard to believe when I say that. I hate to say it, but I have to say it. But 75 percent of those people are downright dishonest. Downright dishonest. They’re fake. They’re fake.”
“They make the sources up. They don’t exist in many cases,” he continued. “These are really bad people.”
This, from the President whose latest Cabinet member just resigned mired in scandal, Scott Pruitt.
I’m appalled by Trump’s incessant lies and hostility toward us.
Watch his spokesman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, actually insult reporters during White House press briefings and you wonder why anyone keeps showing up to give her the opportunity.
Watch the 2015 film “Spotlight” –– which won the Academy Award for Best Picture and is based on a true team working at the Boston Globe to uncover sexual abuse in the Catholic Church — for one of the best and most truthful depictions of our work.
People who know nothing of journalism or why most of us do it or why we believe it’s of essential value to any functional democracy — at its best, speaking truth to power — can easily spit on us and scream at us or, as several have, kill us.
It stunned every one of us who — by definition — have to be self-reliant and often go out alone on assignment to meet people whose character and motives we do not know.
It creates foxhole camaraderie.
So I wrote this story, which ran last week on Poynter, a website devoted to journalism, (named for its benefactor) about long-term newsroom friendships, quoting (among writers from the L.A. Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, a friend and highly accomplished science writer Maryn McKenna:
McKenna thinks that’s, in part, because of Foxhole camaraderie. Journalists work weekends and holidays and have to deal daily with sources who don’t want them there.
“That all tends to build a gestalt of: ‘The outside world doesn’t understand us, so it is up to us to appreciate each other.’ There’s definitely a journalistic personality — we’re simultaneously deeply cynical and utterly committed to old-fashioned virtues of truthfulness and accuracy and grinding hard work — and the stresses of journalistic practice make it clear pretty quickly who in the newsroom shares those values and who doesn’t. Once you find people who do share them, you cling to them.”
Some of you might be readers of The New York Times, a newspaper some consider the best of the U.S. press, and my husband’s former employer of 31 years. I also write for them, freelance, several times a year.
The paper now has a new publisher, a member of the same family that bought it in 1896.
The Times will continue to search for the most important stories of our era with curiosity, courage and empathy — because we believe that improving the world starts with understanding it. The Times will continue to resist polarization and groupthink by giving voice to the breadth of ideas and experiences — because we believe journalism should help people think for themselves. The Times will hold itself to the highest standards of independence, rigor and fairness — because we believe trust is the most precious asset we have. The Times will do all of this without fear or favor — because we believe truth should be pursued wherever it leads.
I’m not an apologist for the biases, errors and omissions made by thousands of fellow journalists. There’s much that still needs tremendous improvement, including hiring, training and retaining many more non-white and female voices and viewpoints.
But as someone who’s been chasing facts for decades — and reporting everything from 9/11 breaking news to investigative medical reporting to covering a Royal Tour — I believe deeply and passionately that smart, tough, responsible journalism is needed now more than ever.
Winner of a National Magazine Award in Canada, I’m immensely proud of the work many of us do and I know why many of us still do it, even in an industry roiled with change and uncertainty.
Within its ranks are new and impassioned calls for greater transparency about what we cover, when and why.
At its best, journalism’s role includes:
— Explaining a complex world to an audience who may lack the time, education, training, experience — or curiosity — to gasp the implications of public policies that affect them, whether a local school budget or commitment to billions of dollars in tax cuts.
— Explaining scientific advances, (and de-bunking falsehoods), that help audiences stay healthy, whether the environment, public health issues, (now that Trump has fired his entire HIV/AIDS council) or personal health.
— Holding the powerful accountable for their actions. In an era of stunning plutocracy and lax corporate governance, it’s essential for business journalists to uncover and explain to us all the implications of key business decisions, whether shutting a plant and throwing thousands out of work or striking a deal with local, regional or federal governments.
— Examining the actions of elected officials at every level and how they’re spending taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.
— Seeking out and telling the stories of the poor, marginalized and under-funded who lack ready access to the noisy and powerful machinery of public relations and lobbyists.
— Sharing the successes (and failures) of NGOs and social service groups as they work to relieve struggle, locally and globally.
— Reporting on every form of culture, from ‘zines to opera, because the arts remain an important part of life, and employ millions of creatives.
Yes, many journalists do see the world from a left-leaning lens, with the underlying belief that — in the industry cliche — it’s still, ideally, our essential role to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
If you’re firmly persuaded that we all wake up each morning determined to spread lies and create “fake news”, there’s likely little I could say to dissuade you.
I will say that most of the journalists I know, no matter their age or place of residence, are people whose primary goal is a shared one: to tell compelling stories to as many people as often as possible.
Ones backed by provable, checked facts.
And, if you want to better understand what we do and why we do it (and how much we think about trying to do it better! you might consider following news from the Neiman Lab, the Columbia Journalism Review and Poynter, to name only three sites dedicated to smart coverage of the issues working journalists still care about.
And this very long, very detailed story by James Risen on The Intercept, about long and protracted battles between the White House and The New York Times, (and internal editorial battles most readers have no idea about) is an absolute must-read to understand the incredible pressures some reporters face to suppress the truth.