Thursday, March 14, 2019

Why do we do journalism? For the sake of a 'healthy, self-governed republic' of a free people, longtime reporter writes

Amid the latest round of buyouts and layoffs at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for which he works, longtime Washington, D.C., reporter Chuck Raasch writes, "I have come to love many of my journalism colleagues the same way soldiers love brothers and sisters in arms," and his headline asks, "Why do we do this thing called journalism?" Raasch answers his own question, but first he writes:

Chuck Raasch
"Being under constant scrutiny from an educated public, and hostility from puffed-up politicians, and partisans armed with keyboard courage, is not the same as getting shot at on the field of battle. But I have had a close journalist friend die in war and another spend time in an Iranian prison. I’ve had my life threatened on the job. Dying doing our jobs is not a foreign concept to journalists, and our brothers and sisters who were killed in Annapolis last summer will always be in our memories.

"Journalists’ reputations are always under assault, never more than today. It comes with the territory, given that our messy role in a vibrant republic is to ask the questions others whisper under their breath. We persist when prevaricators try to get you to look away. We’re a pain to power because, as we all know deep down, the world could be a better place if those in high places always acted in a way that would benefit more than just themselves. . . . Those of you about to summon the keyboard courage to rip these folks’ life work: In crowing over the challenges to community journalism, all you are really doing is contributing to the erosion of community."

Then comes the answer: "Journalism, done right, is a calling like law or the ministry or medicine. We are always there when you need us, even if you don’t think you do. There’s a reason colleagues in despotic regimes are jailed and killed. . . . Why do we continue to put out our very best every day, with dwindling resources in an ever-more-complicated world, while in the name of transparency we open up our very own platforms to those who insult our intelligence and question our allegiance to God and country?

"We do it for you. We do it precisely for the freedoms of our biggest critics. We’re here to call out when the meandering and pandering drift into the lanes of unfairness, bigotry, racism, intolerance and corruption. A healthy, self-governed republic cannot exist without us, on whatever 'platform' we do it. Why do we do this? Why, when the church hides its bad actors and other professions require whistleblowers to ferret out wrongs, are we drawn to a calling that lays its product out there every day to be picked apart and its practitioners to be so publicly scrutinized? It’s because we know that you know that you depend on us, even if you don’t always think you need to pay for us. . . . You depend on the institutions you decry when you need them the most. And that is the best compensation for the good intentions of real journalism for a free people."

There's more, and it's worth reading, sharing and re-publishing. Get the entire column here.

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