CLIFF’S EDGE: In defense of journalism.

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I believe my flaws are few (despite what others may claim), but one I can’t deny is that I’m not a particularly tough disciplinarian. I’m usually willing to grant anyone that second chance.

That’s why I feel I’m up against my better judgment as I assess existing leadership at the federal level in both the executive and legislative branches.

I can hear some of you asking loudly what took me so long to get to this conclusion, while apparently a somewhat equal number are shouting that I just don’t understand what we, the people, really want and why I should be so tickled that we’re getting it, by golly.

So, here I go, right on cue sticking my chin out and saying this nation is in a disgusting mess because we can’t even agree on the challenges we face as a nation – foreign and domestic – let alone find a way to meet them.

However, there are small signs in recent days that we may still rise to our attainable standard of world leadership and take the initiative in putting humanity back on track.

I’m willing to give those fumbling around in Washington, D.C., a second chance, then – on everything but one issue.

They have to back off, now, on their attack on the nation’s press before they so cripple the one institution they’ll definitely need in order to rally the public behind them, should they actually get their act together.

Yes, I’ll acknowledge my bias on this. Since I was 12 years old I’ve proudly contributed to this nation’s journalism, whether practicing it in a newsroom or teaching it in a classroom.

In those nearly 70 years I’ve seen it practiced at its best and at its worst. It’s an imperfect endeavor, and as long as it is a product of human beings, that will be the case. (Tell me anything we Americans do in which we don’t struggle with reaching perfection.)

But even in this era of a shrinking mainstream media struggling with smaller staffs, reduced income, audiences that are still determining what they really want in the way of information and where they are willing go to get it…even with all that we have access to some of the fairest, most committed, skilled and principled news media in the world.

To callously accuse it indiscriminately as being dishonest, unpatriotic, hostile to the American people – even “fake,” good grief! – is without merit and hopelessly foolhardy.

If there’s anything we citizens and those in our government are going to need in the months and years ahead it’s more free press and more vigorous and forthright defense of it.

No second chance is deserved on any other option.

Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.

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8 Responses to “CLIFF’S EDGE: In defense of journalism.”
  1. Local Notion says:

    Hear, hear on the free press. Thanks for the thoughtful admission of human bias! So much to think about, research, discuss, in each article. Curious on some of your thoughts on media and journalistic ethics in the age of digital and social media, where private companies like Tiwtter and Facebook own an increasingly powerful “news” platform, and anyone with an account is essential a potential journalist reporter. The balance between TMI and transparency. Thinking of some of the heartbreaking images coming out the storms, the need to know versus privacy (thinking healthcare especially).

  2. Clean it up! says:

    Hey Cliff! Very good and timely post! Yep, we need our free press even if it is supported by ads and such. That newspaper we use to line the bird cage or drain the fries is so important! Even getting most of my news online these days, I’m addicted to the print version. Send me a package filled with crumbled-up newsprint to pad the content and I am like a toddler with a prize, smoothing out the news from the Midwest or other parts ‘unknown’.

    I can’t help but notice the BTown Blog ad to ‘ HELP FUND LOCAL JOURNALISM’. And of course I am all for that. But, I have another idea. Why not team up with Elston on a Burien 2018 Calendar, Daybook, notecards and writing paper! These would make terrific gifts and I would be first on my list, for one of each!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Journalism and journalists are partially to blame as are journalusm schools who are teaching what is called “perspective” journalism and denigrating “objective” journalism. Unfortunately, this new type of journalism has taken over which slants towards emotionality and so-called “truth” rather than neutrality and facts. Both sides of the political spectrum adhere to it now, and the public suffers in the end in that one news organization is trusted and another is not. Furthermore, the rhetoric and ptesentation has become too emotion-based on both sides by anchors and reporters to such a degree that politicians can use this to their advantage, rather than having to face consequences from the shared electorate which took its information from a shared journalistic consensus.

    • MichaelJ says:

      The 4th estate sold out to presenting a new version of”both sides” when the FCC ceased to enforce fairness standards. This affected print/online journalism too.
      Giving ignorance and “human interest” equal time to actual knowledge is one of the great failures of journalism. It has driven good investigative reporting most to niche sites, not the MSM.

      Some opinions are not equal merely because they are contrarian.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Opinion” is not true journalism. Sorry, want to advocate, influence, persuade, search for “truth”….go into politics and activism, not journalism.

    • Local Notion says:

      Or maybe go singularly into editorial writing, or fiction or poetry, etc. Editorial has an important place in the mainstream media, as long as it is clear that it what is being presented. The printed papers (digital and press?) perhaps retain this practice more consistently than broadcast media?
      Subject matter experts weighing in with opinions provide good information to help readers/viewers understand different perspectives,options and recommendations.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I miss Chancellor, Brinkley, Germond, Broder.

  6. cliff rowe says:

    Hold these thoughts, folks. You’re making a lot of good points, and we need to get back to some of them. I’ll keep the door open.

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