Getting to the truth
The free press around the world is facing testing times in a climate of slick clever twisting of facts, by numerous leading officials, and the people are swamped with multitudes of incidents where truth is seldom put out front, in efforts to protect either political image, or to prolong confusion in order to achieve certain objectives.
It is important to stress that the term “good journalism” simply means the unrelenting search for truth, no matter whether it is damaging or helpful to a particular group, be it political or otherwise. In that process, many excellent journalists throughout the world have paid with their lives in trying to keep that principle above the fray of attempts to suppress truth at any cost.
In every profession, imperfections occur, and when a journalist falls short of the basic principle of seeking truth to inform with accuracy, those opposed to the free press engage in painting journalism as a source committed to causing mayhem, with some actually believing that to be the truth.
Good journalists know that their task is not always welcomed, but revealing truth often falls in the same category.
In America, the atmosphere prior to the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, is clouded with allegations and counter-allegations, over information about the extent of Russian involvement in the recent General Election that saw Trump emerge victorious.
Recent stories circulating about the Trump campaign’s connection with Russia, even though unverified, have touched off a storm of reaction resulting in Trump openly attacking CNN reporter Jim Acosta, calling him “fake news”.
That accusation was later rebutted by the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, James Clapper, who personally contacted Trump to point out certain facts concerning information in circulation, which he said was not leaked by his agency, or the press.
In other words, CNN had not breached any codes of good journalism, and was falsely accused by President-elect Donald Trump for such a violation.
Later, Trump conceded somewhat reluctantly, according to some observers, that Russia had in fact hacked into the election process. However he suggested it could have been other sources, but so far, there has been no reported conclusion, that someone other than Russia was involved. Investigations continue in that area.
Meanwhile the American free press remains under fire, in the midst of what many describe as an unprecedented transition of America’s Commander in Chief.
It would appear that the new administration could be in for a rough ride, if the free press is frowned upon for seeking answers to a number of questions that continue to haunt Trump over a trail of conflicting views, on a wide range of subjects.
Getting at the truth will be a chore for all news outlets, and they must remain committed to their responsibility as journalists, fully aware that at times they will be targeted as the enemy.
This is a reality that all good journalists are confronted by on a daily basis. Bermuda is no exception.
In the weeks and months ahead, in a year with much to cover, including events that surround the prestigious America’s Cup, our journalists will be busy trying to stay on top of events to keep Bermudians informed. It should be fully understood that the job of the press is not to be a voice for any group. That is a task for public relations people. The free press is vital because its mandate is to reveal truths without bias to keep transparency alive in a democratic setting.
We are a small society, and we should be able to steer clear of some of the verbal conflicts witnessed in larger countries, where journalists at times are seen by some in power as detrimental to their objectives, which at times have nothing to to do with helping people to improve their lives.
That is a situation in many political arenas. Here in Bermuda we need to improve in our method of communication between various segments of public service, to avoid what can easily be interpreted as trying to bypass full transparency on sensitive issues.
The press must be vigilant in examining both sides of any dispute, in order to present facts in a professional manner which is what good journalism is about. It is a challenge that means there will always someone unhappy with a report, even when it is based on truth.
Another factor is that even truth is rejected at times, because it puts someone or some group in a bad light. Nevertheless the people need to be informed, and good journalism has a major role to play in our community life.
Bermuda will be a winner with more positive attitudes towards transparency in dealing with various community problems.
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