We lost some big names in journalism in 2008 including William F. Buckley, Jr., Tim Russert and Tony Snow.
Unfortunately, I did not have the privilege to call these men my friends or even coworkers. I have never personally met any of them. Even so, they are my fallen comrades, some of my original role models who first sparked my interest in journalism. They are who maintained my attention and earned my respect throughout their careers as well as my own, setting examples that I hope will continue to motivate generations after mine.
To me, these comrades represent the media of the past, in league with men such as Woodward and Bernstein, famous for their reporting on the Watergate scandal. Though I am not a reporter myself, I still remember thinking that as far as journalists went, they were it. Their media lacked agendas, serving the purpose of collecting information and disseminating it to the public without interjecting opinions, political slants or bias.
Russert carried these same values from the beginning of his career in the ’80s until his passing. Though his background was political, former Governor of New York Mario M. Cuomo described Russert to “Television Week” as being “intrigued by the journalistic challenge of keeping our politics transparent and honest.” He was so successful at publicly maintaining his neutrality that Ethel Kennedy was quoted in the same publication as saying â€œWe longed to hear what his take on world events was.
Unlike Russert, Buckley and Snow didn’t always play a neutral role in the media, but they acted in a way that did not make them any less credible to people on the opposite side of the fence. It was no secret that Buckley was conservative, but he encouraged an atmosphere of openness on his show, “Firing Line.” Snow, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, had obvious political affiliations, yet earned the respect of the liberal media as well.
Despite the sprinkling of these gentlemen and their “old” ways throughout the media community, many of today’s news outlets have increasingly developed agendas and in the process, have lost their innocence. The days of pure, fair and balanced reporting are fading fast, if they are not gone already. While I don’t think the media is evil for having agendas, I do think it has changed the way society accepts the information it is presented. The public knows which news outlets are considered right or left leaning, and it filters and absorbs accordingly.
Journalism, like most things in our lives, moves forward with society. From yellow journalism, to muckraking, to radio, television and USA Today, the media is constantly developing to meet the demands of both publisher and audience. Is the time of stated and unstated positions, endorsements of political candidates another step in the evolution? Will we go back?
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