For 35 years I’ve been engaged in an exploration of facts.
On June 1 I will join more than a dozen other reporters who, like me, went to jail to try and protect a confidential source and promote the First Amendment. Please join us at The National Press Club for this event.
We may not be heroes, but we aren’t the problem either.
I relish the role of being a disinterested third-party observer. I have no hidden agenda other than to uncover the facts. I work very hard to refrain from putting opinions in news stories. I want to provide my readers and viewers with the facts and let them come up with their own opinion. If my facts are wrong, then correct me. Give me the facts.
Don’t sit on the sidelines complaining the media never “gets it” when you aren’t providing it.
Don’t claim a bias exists because your side doesn’t get printed. Don’t back down. Step up.
Those who decline to engage in a conversation are usually those who want to dictate the terms of communication. Many times they have the most to lose with an honest conversation. So, if you honestly want to see things change then engage.
At the end of the day, if my facts are correct and you’re still upset then look in the mirror and accept the consequences of your actions.
This is a hard concept to swallow on both ends of the spectrum. It seems audiences are driven by opinion-based journalism and it appears information providers love to spin the facts to suit their agenda.
Journalists have a lot to answer for – there is no denying that. But we are not alone. There are many who speak of transparency that practice opacity. Reporters everywhere from early in their careers realize public information officers aren’t there to provide you with information but to keep you from it.
In a conversation with WMATA recently – based on a request we made in March and to this day is left unfulfilled – a spokesman for that organization told us they had to make sure we wanted public information to disseminate to (drum roll please) the public. Apparently someone – according to this WMATA spokesman – in the past had requested public information for personal use.
After assuring the WMATA goon we indeed planned to print the information we requested, I then followed up with, “Of course it doesn’t matter. If it’s public information then provide it. Don’t ask why we’re asking for it. It isn’t your job to determine that. We will print it and hope people use it – personally.” You would’ve thought I’d told them I planned to feed them to Satan.
Meanwhile there is the White House. The Obama White House has proven to be one of the most successful at suppressing information and prosecuting whistle-blowers.
The transparency we’ve been promised simply doesn’t exist. Last month for the first time in my 35 years as a reporter I had a White House press officer hang up the phone on me rather than answer a question. Ronald Reagan’s White House was better to me.
Without transparency in government we are all participating in the production of an uninformed and illiterate audience. This audience is more likely to be Holocaust deniers, believe in alien conspiracy theories and a host of other questionable pseudo-scientific and pseudo-factual bowls of pablum.
We decry the proliferation of stories about Justin Bieber and the Kardashians when it is obvious those stories exist because American Journalists in many cases don’t know how to get anything better and in fact don’t know that anything better exists. Government handlers sneer and insult reporters for this shallow reporting when they are equally guilty because blocking the proliferation of real information helps create the very banality they claim to resent.
Those who argue the American public doesn’t want “real” information are cynical and in error.
Our job as reporters is to package factual, and well-vetted, information in such a manner the public understands how it affects their lives.
John Oliver’s recent interview with Edward Snowden which reduced the NSA’s activities down to having sexually-explicit photos traveling the globe without the sender’s permission was pure genius. Parading as comedy Oliver’s story did what we do not do often – delivered a very vital story in a manner everyone could understand.
Reporters should never forget our mission because those in government don’t. They know exactly what they want us to know and not know and they’re better at hiding than we are at uncovering information.
Those of us who’ve gone to jail to protect sources so we can provide vital information to a needful public in turn need your help. Transparency must prevail.