By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Journalism has seen better summers.
A quick rundown will prove the point easily enough:
* The New York Times was rocked by a scandal in which reporter Jayson Blair was discovered to have plagiarized stories, made up facts and fabricated datelines. He was quickly dismissed, and editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd were forced to resign.
* Immediately after the Blair scandal, New York Times feature writer and Pulitzer winner Rick Bragg resigned in disgrace after The Washington Post revealed he had taken credit for a story for which he had done almost no work. The Times’ system of crediting unpaid stringers and assigning datelines was called into question, hastening Raines’ departure.
* Meanwhile, Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s syndicated column was dropped by at least one paper after she built a piece around a quote she distorted from its original meaning.
* The British Guardian admitted its May 31 top story, which alleged that Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw had met in New York and questioned the veracity of their intelligence before Powell’s pivotal United Nations speech-was wrong in every respect. Straw wasn’t even in New York at the time.
* A story that appeared on the Guardian’s Web site less than a week later quoted a U.S. defense official as saying the Iraq war was “all about oil,” a serious distortion of his original intent: that economic sanctions wouldn’t work against Iraq because it had oil.
The outcry forced the Guardian to retract the story and print lengthy corrections in both its online and print editions.
* The BBC, Britain’s publicly funded broadcasting company, ran a string of embarrassing, uncorrected mistakes during the Iraq war.
Reporter Andrew Gilligan made the now-infamous claim that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had “sexed up” an intelligence dossier that provided the basis for Britain’s entrance into the war.
A parliamentary commission found no substance to the allegations, and the BBC’s reported source denied making such claims.
The source later committed suicide as Gilligan was called before Parliament to explain his story, and the British press turned against the company, calling into question whether the BBC will continue to receive British taxpayer dollars.
Yes, journalism has seen better summers. Indeed, these are dark days for our profession.
Journalists act shocked now that the American public says it has no trust in journalism-even holds this profession in contempt. But who will blame them?
The nobility of journalism is being called into question at a time when it is needed most. Without this profession, accountability fails and corruption breeds unchecked.
But journalists’ jobs are worthless when they no longer have the trust of those to whom they are accountable-their readers, their viewers, their listeners. This sacred trust should not, indeed it cannot, be breached if our society is to survive.
And the students who create and publish this paper twice a week understand this. Our duty is to the reader, first, foremost and always.
Whether by attending Students’ Association meetings or by chronicling campus events, the Optimist exists to serve the students, faculty, staff and even the alumni of this institution.
The door is open, the phone numbers are listed, the e-mail is read. Advice will be taken, letters will be printed, corrections will be run. It’s our duty to you so that you may trust us.