At the Intersection of Journalism and Greatness

I attended the national convention of the Society of Professional Journalists in Washington, D.C., in October. It was an outstanding event, including sessions on the electronic revolutions reshaping journalism, remembrances of Presidential press secretaries, the frustrations of current White House reporters, and watching Helen Thomas interview Leila Fadel, the brave 26-year-old Baghdad bureau chief for McClatchy News, on how she dodges the dangers of reporting from Iraq.

The greatest moments at the conference were these, when I sat and listened to the giants of journalism talk about the importance of their profession. Journalists take a real beating these days from many quarters; it’s hard to remember sometime why you even were attracted to the profession in the first place. It certainly isn’t for the pay. Ask any reporter/editor from a weekly who’s accustomed to earning 30 hours’ pay for an 80-hour week.

But when you hear from some of the best, as I did, you’re reminded that a free press is one of the last bastions of a free people at any time in history. It might sound corny to say but it’s true.

Imagine a panel with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee recalling the reporting of Watergate..a story that involved some 37 criminal offenses yet still manages to look tame compared to some of the constitutional chicanery we’ve endured since. Imagine Scott Armstrong from the Senate impeachment proceedings and Daniel Schoor from CBS sitting on the same stage, with Bob Schieffer as moderator. Imagine them remembering the late publisher Katherine Graham who, even when threatened economically with the loss of five television station licenses by the Nixonites, never once considered asking Woodward and Bernstein to back off of the story.

These are journalists, not Bill O’Reilley windbags or “Access Hollywood” wanna-bes.

What Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee, Armstrong, Schieffer, Graham, Schoor, Thomas and now Fadel remind us is this: in a free and open society, journalism matters.

And great journalism matters greatly.

Ellen M Mrja

6 thoughts on “At the Intersection of Journalism and Greatness

  1. The Analyst says:

    Oh my God. Helen Thomas and “giants of journalism” in the same sentence? And “constitutional chicanery”? You’re referring of course to Sandy Berger, right?

  2. Jon Stewart will be on one of the panels.

    And some brave journalists in Pakistan.
    The Maximum Leader there has shut down all TV news in Pakistan except state TV. The newspapers are still cooking, but one Pakistani commentator this morning said the literacy rate is so low in Pakistan that the newspapers don’t have much influence in spreading the news of government crackdowns.

    Our allies, cracking down on the press. I’m sure Dick Cheney is envious.

  3. EMM says:

    Dear Analyst: No, I wasn’t thinking of Sandy Berger. (By the way, is that the best you’ve got?)

    I was referring to a president who was handed his office through the Constitutional chicanery of what once was a Supreme Court that in 2000 improperly stole the election for him, the same chicken-hawk who was AWOL during Air National Guard days when he was supposed to be protecting Alabama from attack but had no problem starting a war based on a big lie that has caused the deaths of 3,000 U.S. troops, the same “decider” who circumvents Constitutional protections through the abuse of signing letters and the pardoning of traitors (like his vice-president’s assistant, who revealed the identity of a CIA undercover operative) not to mention systematically dismantling civil liberties one by one since America’s tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

    As for your comment about Helen Thomas not being a giant of journalism, she’s covered every President since John F. Kennedy, has traveled around the world numerous times with every president from Nixon through Big Bush, was the first female officer of the National Press Club, and female president of the White House Correspondents Association (as well as the first recipient of a prize established in her name by that group — the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award), is the only reporter to have a personally named spot in the Press Office, has been named one of the 25 most influential women in America, holds an honorary doctorate and has written four works of non-fiction.

    What do you do for a living?

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