It was 20-years ago that I sold my first freelance magazine feature, and since then I’ve published (literally) hundreds of pieces and once worked on payroll as a magazine editor for a couple of years. I know, firsthand, that there is no group of professionals so obsessive about truth, or philosophically obsessed with questions of truth and meaning, as journalists. That is a fact. You can get as annoyed as you like about the editorial that displeases you, you can point to errors, and you can point to the rare Janet Cooke*-like figure, but the fact remains: There is no other class of people as fanatically devoted to getting the truth, getting it right, and getting it out to their readers.
The sad and unhappy truth is this: An extraordinary number of people don’t want the truth, and don’t want their preconceptions disturbed. When that happens, they … shoot the messenger.
What is more, journalistic navel-gazing attending matters of truth, lies, and videotape has gone stratospheric since Donald Trump announced his candidacy. I have encountered it firsthand, and I see it on listservs and in chat rooms. Overwhelmingly, referring to Donald Trump as a ‘liar’ is something that journalists do with intense regret and distaste. Keep that in mind as you watch Fox’s Shepard Smith react to Trump’s impromptu news conference today.
Our national political reporters are doing heroic work right now, and the country needs them more than ever before. We should all be grateful they persist in the face of the cataracts of abuse they receive.
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* Janet Cooke was a Washington Post reporter who invented stories about a child heroin addict, ultimately winning a Pulitzer Prize for them. Eventually the fraud was discovered, the Washington Post fired her, the Pulitzer was rescinded and, last I knew, Cooke was working a dimestore checkout line in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The average journalist, at least of my acquaintance, instantly transforms into a rabid, bare-fanged carnivore at the mere mention of her.