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Fulfilling obligations

MBJ Editorial

The situation at CBS News and its flawed story on President Bush’s National Guard service provide yet another reminder that journalism has wandered far from its professional ideals.

Conspiracy theories aside, the critical factors behind this mess are sloppy work and a rush to get a story first — rather than get it right.

Competitive pressure in the media is intense, but much of it is driven by an unquenchable demand for higher ratings and a fatter bottom line return, rather than serving the public interest. And this situation is both a shame and a danger.
It is unfortunate that the rich history and high standards associated with CBS News are now irrevocably tarnished by this latest incident. But of far greater concern is the loss of trust.

Dubious online sources — where nonsense passes as news — to the perceived biases of CNN and Fox News are additional threats to the often complicated truth which journalists have an obligation to cover, share and explain.

When the people who watch or listen to the news or when readers of newspapers and magazines lose faith in these sources one of the underpinnings of democracy is lost.

All of us, journalists and public alike, must demand that our nation’s media organizations do a much better job of reporting with objectivity, clarity, hard work and honesty.
Ratings be damned, because the stakes are too high to do otherwise.

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