Good journalism: The Jim Lehrer Standards
For those interested in true journalism, the recent passing of Jim Lehrer at age 85 deserves our attention.
In his own words, here is what Jim Lehrer had to say about his profession: words that should be foremost on the minds of the news readers and pundits we see on today’s cable news, broadcast channels, and on the minds of those who write for The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
"[I]do nothing I cannot defend. [I] cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.
"Assume the viewer is as smart and caring and as good a person as I am. Assume the same about all the people on whom I report.
"Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
"Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label everything.
"Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously. And, finally. I am not in the entertainment business."
In line with the standards of Jim Lehrer, here are some tests we can apply: Does the news story answer the Who, What, When, Where, and How of the story? As for the Why, be careful. The "why" could get into the realm of subjective opinion as to "why" something happens.
When listening to radio news, the bias of the producer/writer is often revealed when the producer/writer provides an audio clip of the side he or she favors and merely reads what the other side has to say about the subject, if at all. Bear in mind, newsrooms across the nation often look to The New York Times or to The Washington Post to guide them as to which news stories are important and how they should be reported. (A more balanced print alternative is The Washington Times.)
Regional and local newsroom staff are often overworked and underpaid. Accepting the editorial judgments of editors in faraway New York and Washington is an easy out. Unfortunately, that can lead to "rip and read" reporting. Rip the copy off the printer and read it.
When watching CNN or MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and PBS-TV or listening to NPR, consumers would be well-advised to apply the Jim Lehrer standards. While Fox News Channel is conservative in its worldview, Fox often draws the ire of conservative viewers, to include President Trump, for trying to live up to its motto of "fair and balanced."
As for a politically unbiased Internet search engine, try www.duckduckgo.com, a search engine that, unlike Google, does not track your location, does not sell your data to anyone, and does not stack stories in order to favor the left side over the right side. True Internet neutrality.
Realclearpolitics.com provides political articles on both sides of almost every issue. It also has tabs for: Defense, Sports, History, Science, Religion, Education, and others. One-stop shopping for a wide variety of information. By contrast, The anti-Trump Drudge Report tends to favor the sensational over the substantial. We suggest. You decide.
©2020. William Hamilton.
At 1:p.m., Mountain Time, on February 17th, William Hamilton will be on KOA Radio 850 with Mike Rosen to discuss Dr. Hamilton’s most recent book Formula for Failure in Vietnam: The Folly of Limited Warfare. Ten-percent of the book’s royalties will go to the Blue Angels Foundation to help support the work being done to help veterans and others with PTSD. To order, call toll free: (800) 253-2187. Or, go to Amazon.com or McFarlandPub.com.