Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tributes to Bradlee Remind Us What Real Journalism Is

Bradlee (White House)
Benjamin Bradlee died Tuesday.  He was editor of The Washington Post when its coverage of the Pentagon Papers survived a legal challenge by the administration of President Richard Nixon.  Those documents had been leaked by Daniel Ellsberg PhD and exposed dishonesty by the government of this country about its war in Vietnam.  Bradlee's tenure continued as said newspaper broke the Watergate scandal, which resulted in the resignation of the aforementioned president.

The choice by Pres. Obama to award the Medal of Freedom -- the highest civilian honor in the land -- to Bradlee last year was ironic given that this administration is more hostile to the media than any other administration of the US was since that of Nixon.  Despite such hostility, the media should learn from the example Bradlee set when he demonstrated he understood that the responsibilities of journalism include to critically question and aggressively investigate, not to blindly accept as fact the word of officials in government.

In order for freedom of the press to have meaning, reporters must prioritize the public interest over their desire for access to -- and over their instinct to cave to intimidation tactics by -- officials who are supposed to serve the people; and the voters must elect candidates who oppose such tactics, which include surveillance of journalists and which include (threats of) punishment for leaks of information that need not be secret.

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