Journalists’ role in this great nation
Paul Pronovost, executive editor at the Cape Cod Times, sent this note to his staff today to remind them of what we, as journalists, are supposed to be about.
Today a new president takes the oath of office and is sworn in as president of the United States. It is a historic moment, and not only because it has happened a mere 45 times in our nation’s history, but also because of who has been elected. We’ve chronicled Donald Trump’s controversies and conflicts during the campaign, through the election, and to this day. There will be protests in Washington and around the nation because of the divisive nature of his rhetoric, with people expressing a mix of anger and fear for what has happened and what might come.
We, of course, are journalists. As such, we deal in facts. And here are two very important facts in the context of today’s events and beyond: Donald Trump was elected president. We cover everything and everyone without favor or bias.
This is always difficult, and perhaps now more than ever. We have been among Trump’s targets. So it is understandable and natural that we all have personal feelings about our new president.
But now more than ever, we must be on our game. We must report with clear eyes, focus and fairness. We cannot be distracted by incendiary tweets. We must put our personal feelings aside, whatever they might be, and clinically approach our work whether we be reporting, editing, choosing stories, writing headlines or writing editorials. It also means we cannot take a stand for or against this or any other president in public places, social media, in displays or symbols, and even openly within this building. Doing so undermines everything we are supposed to be about.
This is always easier said than done, but at this time the integrity of our profession is more important than ever because we have a critically important role as the Fourth Estate, one that is more challenged now than ever, and we have to do it to absolute perfection. Our role is essential in a fully functional democracy, so we must show everyone, including ourselves, that we maintain our professionalism no matter the pressures or circumstances.
Journalism is our activism.
Perhaps none of this needs to be said — without a doubt, you are the best group of journalists I’ve ever worked with — but as we head into a new era for our nation, I couldn’t help but offer my thoughts. My door is open to chat (or rant, or whatever) anytime. Thanks for listening and understanding.