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On the Vital Importance of (Good) Journalism

Editor’s Note: This is the text of a speech delivered by Victor Greto at the Delaware Press Association Awards banquet on May 2, 2019.

My experience as a journalist for three decades, and as a professor for more than a decade, has given me at least one insight: that the core of journalism as a vocation and duty has been dissipating in an increasingly divided American society mesmerized by technology and social media.

Teaching classes at Wesley College for the past decade has revealed to me declining knowledge among students of the importance or relevance of an independent institution which keeps tabs on the powers-that-be, from federal and state governments to college administrations. In fact, it seems to me that the majority of news acceptable to most of us must be that which confirms our own political and social prejudices and expectations for it to elicit any kind of approval and to be sharable on social media.

This unfortunately encompasses many un-journalistic tributaries of journalism, including public relations and fake news. There is nothing inherently wrong with public relations—as long as we keep in mind its goals: to help further the positive image of an institution, corporate or governmental, public or private.

But the recent ability for many of us to understand that has been stunted by the rhetoric of an increasing cacophony of self-satisfied voices that demand and expect that their message, their perspective, their spin, is the only legitimate one; that all others—including and especially an attempt by a disinterested third party to make sense of the voices—is anathema to their message and very existence. It’s a denial of the point of a free and independent press, and it’s a denial of journalism as a craft.

I don’t understand the evidently powerful, personal attraction of the bullying self-righteousness I often see on social media. It is habitually accompanied by a profound lack of respect, not only for others’ points of view, but also for those of us whose assumptions are that truth—whatever it might be, however nebulous it is—invariably lies uneasily somewhere in the middle of the silence after the voices have spoken.

Democracy is about obtaining facts and deciding, while working with others and compromising, what the better public course might be. These democratic virtues have recently become confused with a lack of integrity, which has then been projected most glaringly onto independent journalists.

I am not naïve. Like any other craft or profession, journalism has its share of fakers—more now thanks to technological immediacy—of pseudo-journalists who cheat, sensationalize, and boldly declare their own agendas; who build—and are encouraged to build—themselves into a “brand,” to obtain a “following,” and to garner for his or her website more and more “likes” or “hits.”

I am not naïve. I also understand and have met and worked with people, good journalists, whose egos are bigger than the size of this room, and who use journalism as a vehicle to display that ego, or who compete with other journalists to make a bigger splash with a story or a sensational fact just uncovered.

Nor do I blame the technology. Texting, social media, and the ability to be in contact with whomever we wish is, objectively, a good and often comforting ability and extension of ourselves. But it has unexpectedly—and this only over the past decade or so—allowed the more fragile parts of ourselves to become terrifyingly caged within this immediacy. It has shortened even further our attention spans. It has somehow allowed us to be contemptuous of fellow citizens as they increasingly and perhaps unthinkingly express their previously most secret feelings, thoughts, and ideas.

By gaining immediacy, we’ve lost a lot. We have lost the great role of editing, which many of us had been doing more or less unconsciously for much of our lives. Editing, revising, rethinking, reformulating. These four essentials to journalism—and, one might say, to all good writing, let alone living peacefully with others—have increasingly disappeared down a rabbit hole of supposed glorious and “truer” naked self-expression.

This unedited form of expression has become the vehicle to “truth,” or at least our own individual truths, and sees no role for an institution outside itself; an institution that sees that self as only one of many, and as only one part of a social truth bigger and more important to the well-being of the community.

I teach my students the virtues and necessity of independent reporting and thinking; of the power of editing, rethinking and revising; of the profound sense of accomplishment one feels when righting a wrong, when holding accountable anyone with any public role, or anyone who holds any power over others.

I teach them this in the face of declining journalism in the United States, with the knowledge that more than 1,400 local newspapers have closed during the past decade; that an organization called “Reporters Without Borders” recently rated the United States and its media as “problematic,” and 48th in the world in terms of this country’s independent ability to report and write. Our country’s rating is sandwiched between Romania and Senegal, well below France, Spain, Austria, Jamaica and Costa Rica.

“Never before,” the report noted, “have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection. Hatred of the media is now such that a man walked into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2018 and opened fire, killing four journalists and one other member of the newspaper’s staff. The gunman had repeatedly expressed his hatred for the paper on social networks before ultimately acting on his words.”

I urge my students not to forget the history of this amazing vocation, and the necessity for its endurance. The American press as an institution goes back to before the founding of the United States. American newspapers helped argue for independence. It is in the DNA of this country’s founding document, the Constitution, and is the only craft named in the First Amendment.

What then is the duty of a free press?

It demands governmental and corporate—all institutional—accountability; it demands a passion for the Fourth Estate’s independent history; it demands a profound understanding of its First Amendment role to inform citizens about what is happening locally, nationally and internationally; it demands an understanding that our readers or viewers constitute an entire community.

I believe this, the community, is journalism’s true ace in the hole. Our loyalty is to the community as a whole, however relatively small it may seem, from the world, the country and the state, to the county, city, small town, and college campus. Each community, no matter how small, is inevitably filled with many stakeholders, both group and individual.

Within this fact lies the key to journalism’s power to search for a social truth that applies to all. Yes, I am talking about investigative journalism and the nitty-gritty of covering city council meetings. But I am also talking about complex—and clearly written—features about our world, and profiles of those who have influence over us.

You, the student, you, the journalist, you, the multimedia communicator, can and must be a part of the evolution of this 250-year history. It is not an easy task. It is not a popular task. It is not for the faint of heart.

But it is imperative and necessary for those of us who understand that democracy, accountability and independent information, not bound to any one stakeholder or point of view, need skilled journalists: those of us who write and produce concisely and well; those of us experienced in the art and craft of interviewing; those of us who have honed the ability to sift through sources and distinguish facts from half-truths or outright lies; and those of us who want to help others and ourselves understand the nature of our social problems and issues.

It’s not about you or your brand, your social status, likes, shares or hits. It’s about your city, your county, your state, your children, the people you love, and the country and world in which you are a citizen.

It’s not about you. But it is up to you.


Victor Greto has been a journalist for 25 years and a professor at Wesley College for ten, where he teaches journalism and history. He lives in Ridley Park, Pa. where he also freelances and works on his novel. You can follow him on Twitter @vgreto

Photo by Raphael Ferraz on Unsplash


  1. Respek Wahmen says

    Taking a closer look at this referenced “reporters without borders” organization, we find their rationale for the “48th in the world” ranking (for those who didn’t bother to look):

    “US press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has been under increasing attack over the past few years, and the first year of President Donald J. Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report. He has declared the press an “enemy of the American people” in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term “fake news” in retaliation for critical reporting.”

    Trump mostly uses the term fake news to refer to fake news. It’s really not that hard to understand, unless you’re part of the problem. Maybe Trump doesn’t understand the vital importance of “good” journalism, and he’s just lashing out on some emotional level, but he’s essentially correct (it’s mostly all malicious, frivolous, intentionally misleading, unreliable, etc.).

    • katiemfurlan says

      They did get my hopes up for a second there.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      So Fox news is our most reputable news organization? Is that your implication?

      Since it isn’t that hard to understand, please go ahead and explain how we define “fake news” and how Trump’s definition is anything other that a shield against uncomfortable information?

      • derek says

        Anyone who believes a word emanating from Washington and New York media after the more than two year conspiracy mongering about Russia is a fool. To think these idiots were taking at face value the words of a bunch of FBI agents boggles my mind. Nothing can redeem them or make them worthy of trust after that collosal cockup.

      • @Nakatomi Plaza

        I always get a kick out of how much Fox News grips the liberal-left mind. I mean the OP doesn’t mention any specific news sources, but you’re raring to put words in their mouth.

        As for Trump, the fact you’re sputtering about the label “fake news” in light of the failure of their Russian collusion narrative to be validated after a two years investigation (by intensely partisan Democrat attorneys) shows you are beyond a reasoned argument.

      • Respek Wahmen says

        I’m more of a Rachel Jones fan, plaza. Remember when she pinched herself and assured Trump that she was real? She exists? Probably not that definition or understanding. How about…
        not genuine; spurious

      • Kencathedrus says

        @Nakatomi Plaza: strangely enough it is. I used to watch CNN and read the Guardian, but sadly, these news sources have failed us badly along with many others. Strangely enough, Fox has become more reputable. At very least, it doesn’t devolve into identity politics, misandry, heterophobia, or occidentiphobia.

        • itsme says

          “Fox has become more reputable. At very least, it doesn’t devolve into identity politics, misandry, heterophobia, or occidentiphobia.”

          Wut. Identity politics defines Fox News. It is identity politics. I’m not arguing they are right or wrong, but to call them otherwise is completely false. They don’t even try to hide it. As a an actual media historian (like, it’s my job and I publish in that field), I feel like I’m taking crazy pills reading this comment section.

          FWIW, if I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about society, I would not allow cable news to be watched. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox are all biased and feed to the emotions of their audience through hyperbole. None are reputable.

      • Saw file says

        So CNN and MSNBC (add CBC) is our most reputable news organizations? Regardless of being exposed in blatant lies, “Is that your implication?”

        Easy to understand, so I await your response to the claim. “Fake” is a word defined in the dictionary. In the real world, that is. So POTUS is now wrong for using dictionary definitions?

        Please expand and expound on your own comment reply, Noodle Plaza

  2. Richard says

    Prof. Greto, even assuming you are correct that the “news” most people want to hear is that which confirms their own biases, can you find no explanation for that based on journalism having long ago stopped applying the same “truth to power” standard regardless of the policy preferences of the target. There seems to be no room in modern journalism for a Mike Royko, who enjoyed tweaking the nose of bullying, officious “authority” no matter what its preference. Evidence has been stacking up for a long time that the “tweaking” is directed almost exclusively at conservatives. Much of that may be well deserved, but when combined with willful blindness to similar conduct on the other side (e.g., the wholesale failure to report on Barack Obama’s many flaws) how is it any wonder to you that conservatives are out for revenge?

    • David of Kirkland says

      Nobody knows what “real journalism” even means as the news has been selective, unrepresentative and complicit since it was invented. It’s always been an advertising vehicle.
      Too much news is just the facts, without context, without verification that the facts are real (reporting that someone “said” something or not challenging an answer provided), without critical thinking, without contrasting it with other facts.
      It’s why I can read one day that Chinese and Native American casinos are the cause of Vancouver BC’s real estate prices going up because they are money laundering, and a day or two later read how they have no idea how it affects prices, no idea how much is money laundering, and that most of the money comes from the US. Both are presented as news and we’re left no better informed, and less informed if we only read one of them.

  3. Farris says

    While I agree with the thrust of this article, it does have one inherent flaw. Journalism has a tendency to look at its past as gilded and pure but such is not the case. Early pamphleteers could be brutal and faced little accountability other than dueling. Claims of being or creating bastards was common. The muckrakers were not always the most ethical. Walter Duranty overlooked genocide as a communist apologist.

    “journalism has its share of fakers…..who cheat, sensationalize, and boldly declare their own agendas; who build—and are encouraged to build—themselves into a “brand,” to obtain a “following,”

    Has and has had. However I agree with the author that technology has made these flaws more ubiquitous.

    The overuse of confidential sources is reducing journalism to gossip.

  4. Princess Underlove says

    Good article.

    Freedom of the press is under attack by right-wingers, especially by Donald Trump, who has relentlessly attacked and smeared reputable journalists for reporting on his crimes and treason. Journalists, especially women and people of color, are being harassed and threatened in record numbers for refusing to publish right-wing propaganda. Meanwhile fake news institutions like Fox News and the Sinclair broadcast group are constantly pumping out partisan propaganda to promote bigotry and hate speech.

    Right-wingers can’t deal with the fact that reality has a liberal bias, and so they lash out and try to burn down the entire institution of journalism, they must be stopped before it’s too late.

    • E. Olson says

      Is that you Jerry Nadler, or is AOC now gracing the comment section of Quillette?

    • Respek Wahmen says

      Partially correct. It’s actually the result of feminism. Third wave feminists literally think reason is a tool of “the patriarchy.” Without reason everything is a power play, where anything goes.

      For example, the media (or anyone for that matter) should never have taken the allegations against Kavanaugh seriously, but when there’s no real truth or reason anymore, and considering what’s at stake (lifetime appointment of a Christian white male), it’s quite easy to understand why they would push that (probable) lie, even knowingly

      Likewise, very few of those responsible for smearing the Covington kids could possibly be so stupid as to have sincerely made a genuine mistake with their coverage. Those claiming to have “rushed to judgment” are maybe even more reprehensible than those who stuck by with their fake news.

      Regressive/feminist consumers of news such as yourself (I assume) are different. Hanlow’s razor would apply. But journalists should be held to a higher standard. They should be said to have intended the ordinary consequences of their actions (killing democracy).

      And Trump mocking the media actually has probably no affect on press freedom, obviously. Why would it?

      “South Africa’s 1996 constitution protects the freedom of its very diverse media but apartheid-era legislation and the 2004 terrorism laws are used to limit coverage of governments institutions when “national interest” is supposedly at stake. The state security agency spies on some journalists and taps their phones. Others are harassed and subjected to intimidation campaigns if they try to cover certain subjects involving the ruling ANC party, government finances, the redistribution of land to the black population or corruption. ”

      South Africa’s is ranked 31 vs the US at 48. How is that not ridiculous? Because the president says mean things to some journalists (who arguably deserve it)? New Zealand is ranked 7th. How easy would it be for a journalist there to question the PM on her recent capitulations? Could a journalist in NZ easily criticize the direction the country is headed?

      • Princess Underlove says

        @Respek Wahmen

        Oh look, someone with a Carlgon meme for a name, this tells me everything I need to know about you.

        I’m not even going to respond to your insane conspiracy theories about spooky feminists running the press, that goes into “too crazy to even process” territory, so I’m just going to say that you being so scared of women wanting equal rights is the reason why nobody takes you seriously.

        • Respek Wahmen says

          What’s a Carlgon? I use this name because I’m a nine-year-old and because I respek wahmen. Why do you use the name underlove? Feminism?

    • Asenath Waite says

      @Princess Underlove

      Entertaining as always.

    • EK says

      Right on, Princess Underwear! You tell the Man what it is.

    • bumble bee says

      Ha Ha Ha, Fox News. As compared to the idiocy churned out by every other network/station that is so liberally biased they need to drop any mention of the word news in their name. Propaganda machine is more of what they deliver, they would be comedy relief if they weren’t so ridiculous.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Princess U

      Mr Trump telling off liberal media types for their bias is not restricting the freedom of the press. In fact Mr Trump has made the media a player, or should I say, exposed it as a player. The media for a long time now has sought to influence events as muchas report on them. That has to be brought to the attention of the public.
      WHat is it with you stupid liberals? You are happy to dish out abuse but you can’t take it whhen someone points out your fantasies and lies.
      The facts of life are conservative.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        God, you guys are stupid. How you looked at media consolidation lately? Do you have any fucking idea how little choice we have compared to just 20-30 years ago? Radio station and TV station ownership used to be restricted, but it isn’t any more. Ever hear of the Sinclair Broadcast Group? Ajit Pai and the FCC? They’re now looking to consolidate the internet and restrict alternative media. This should really concern you, but you’re too stupid to care about anything but your precious conservative bullshit agenda. You guys rail on about “freedom” and all your nonsense but you’re just useful idiots.

        The media is owned by corporate interests, dumbass. You really never had the sense to wonder why issues that most Americans support, such as healthcare reform, regulatory reform, and raising taxes on the rich hardly ever get covered by the mainstream media? It’s because it’s run by a handful of conglomerates that hate progressivism. And if you’re worried about Russia, nobody gives a shit about that. That’s just a distraction so nobody notices that Pelosi and Biden are just corporate stooges.

        Keep swinging, Princess U. It’s hilarious seeing these guys freak out whenever anybody questions their sad kingdom.

        • Denny Sinnoh says

          Glad to hear you have a girlfriend now,
          Tomi-Chan !

        • Kencathedrus says

          @Nakatomi Plaza: I think many on here would agree with you. This consolidation is why we’re losing objectivity and getting fed a ‘liberal’ agenda of social engineering and population planning.

      • Daniel V says

        The media for a long time now has sought to influence events as muchas report on them. That has to be brought to the attention of the public.

        Note that Chomsky did exactly that with manufacturing consent. The fact it has been happening has been all but ignored and even now it seems the right accepts it with an exception made for Fox news.

    • Constantin says

      @ Princess Underlove
      It does not take long for ideologies with moral codes divorced from the acceptance of opposing points of view to conclude that “reality has a …….. bias” and everyone not fitting that mold must be stopped with some urgency. You could fill in the dotted line spot with “communism”, Maoism”, “Nazism”, “liberalism” (however you might define it)- it makes no difference. What matters, is a strong confidence that anyone swimming against that current poses a social threat that “must be stopped before it’s too late”. That is a world that has no room for free speech and no room for unaligned opinion, and a world that fears them both more than anything else. In your case, whether you are an AOC fan/zealot or not, you have not yet made the leap to conceptualizing the re-education camp and the Gulag, as you hope that social media ostracism and deplatforming may be enough to neutralize the source of your fear. Your re-education camp is still virtual in a sense. But the borders between the two realities has become very blurred in a world where some people make a living on social media platforms. I think that one insidious effect of “fake news” and perhaps the most telling symptom is the build up of a sense of an inevitable march of history that is divorced from reality. In your case, you are simply failing to notice that the kind of “liberalism” you have in mind is failing and on the retreat everywhere you look: Brazil, Italy, USA, Germany, Canada, France, etc. and has also become the object of scorn elsewhere (“baizuo” etc.). Consider the possibility that “fake news” may just be a desperate effort to prop up a crumbling ideology and that aggressive mobs literally wielding baseball bats and a couple of well positioned media moguls and social media moguls are focused almost exclusively on silencing opposing views the same way one would rush to plug the holes under the water line in a leaky boat. It would be much less crushing to assume that reality has no bias whatsoever, as the power to control people has never lasted too long, and come to terms with the idea that classical liberalism (as opposed to the notion you seem to embrace) with its focus on free speech and individual rights has been the most “reality” adapted social organization- so far at least, and that journalism as described in this article was a pillar of it only so far as it did not embrace the idea that reality has some ideological bias. I have seen scenes of such worldview confidence crumbling in the streets and Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarter in 2016. I thought at the time that it was a sad scene and one should not ridicule human misery. I think you should brace for more to come and get ready to cope with a world where the most valued “diversity” is that of thought and opinion. There is much less grief at the end of that acceptance and you may discover that it is also much more conducive to social cohesion and peace. Vaya con Dios!

    • John says

      “Reality has a liberal bias” = I have never read and do not understand the opposing position/worldview. I have zero empathy for those that hold it and feel safe in assuming that they are all evil.

  5. E. Olson says

    What total crap – no wonder journalists are held in such low regard.

    “Never before,” the report noted, “have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection. Hatred of the media is now such that a man walked into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2018 and opened fire, killing four journalists and one other member of the newspaper’s staff. The gunman had repeatedly expressed his hatred for the paper on social networks before ultimately acting on his words.”

    FAKE NEWS: the gunman was mentally deranged stalker who was unhappy with the paper for stories about his stalking. After the shooting, “journalists” far and wide immediately blamed Trump for the shooting, even though there was never any link between the shooter, his motives, and Trump. Furthermore, a good reporter might do some fact checking before asserting how dangerous journalism is – in fact it doesn’t come close to being a top 25 dangerous profession (see link)

    “What then is the duty of a free press? It demands governmental and corporate—all institutional—accountability…”

    Accountability should start with a stoppage of FAKE NEWS reporting. Russian collusion has been a non-stop story for 2+ years, but the only collusion has been between the media and the government leakers trying to take down Trump. And now that the collusion story has been shown to be a total farce, with zero investigative contribution from “journalists”, have they apologized to the President and the American people? No they haven’t, but instead have moved on to non-stop coverage of “obstruction” to the collusion that didn’t exist.

    Or how about the non-stop coverage regarding the “racism” and “punchable faces” of the Covington school kids. More FAKE NEWS with no apology until faced with the threat of liable lawsuits. Or how about the total media silence about the recent Colorado school shooting once it became known that the shooters were gay, transgender, Obama supporters with an illegal parent – talk about not fitting the narrative.

    Contrary to the content and tone of the drivel written by the author, good advice to journalists might start with the need to clearly separate reporting from editorializing. Good advice would also promote the idea that journalism schools should go out of their way to establish political balance among their faculty and students, rather than being the Leftist indoctrination centers that journalism schools have become. Advice might also focus on using multiple sources to ensure accuracy before publishing/broadcasting a story, and attempting to give both sides of the story equal treatment to avoid constant Leftist bias. Furthermore, good advice would suggest that reporters attack their own bias by most vigorously “holding to account” the politicians, celebrities, and organizations promoting that journalists have the most sympathy for, and untiringly investigating and reporting the scandals and failures of the Left to at least the same degree they do the scandals and failure of the Right. And finally, until journalists hold themselves accountable for FAKE NEWS that they purposely or accidentally report, they should be told to expect no improvement to poor public sentiment towards journalism and journalists.

    • Mec B says

      @ E. Olson You did not read the article again but decided it was a poorly written article as it did not provide the same lens you churn out between the “Left” and the “Right”. Can you for one moment change your tune and listen for a moment. The author did not say that Trump is the whole problem but that journalism as a WHOLE has become click bait world.
      But I’m sure you’ll see the word “Trump” and freak out again. I thought SJW”s were the worst offenders of being triggered, but here I stand mistaken…

      • Marty says

        I’m sure @E.Olsen did read the article. S/he expressed the same sentiments I have, and I certainly read the article.

        Journalists need to learn that accountability has to start with themselves, before anyone will trust their claims to hold others accountable.

        Trust is like a baseball batting average. Strike out once and you’ll never, ever bat 1000 again.

  6. bumble bee says

    Well it seems people have a good understanding of what the problem is, but the questions remain of what can be done. Perhaps, this actual topic could be the “Big One” for investigative journalists to uncover. Not a whistle blower type of perspective, but the loss of integrity, the lose of wanting to report the truth devoid of biases. Where opinion is left on the opinion pages, and facts are reported. Just as the group who uncovered the Panama Papers were a network of journalists, so too could this undertaking be collaborative.

    One aspect that is obvious, journalist, news media, have fallen from grace and it appears no one associated wants to do the right thing here and do the work to expose those who are causing the damage. Just like every other institution in society, be they priest, doctors, lawyers, teachers, police, you name it, they no longer possess the same immediate respect and trust they once embodied. It’s quite ironic that the 4th estate, the ones who were determined to tell the people the truths of what is going on, cannot turn the same spotlight on themselves enough to see they are ones needing to be held accountable.

    • Daniel V says

      Well to start the primary purpose of the any journalistic institution would have to align with the duties of the journalist discussed in the article. Meaning it can’t have its primary purpose being to make profit for shareholders. Otherwise in time journalism will turn into public relations and be more worried about keeping viewers tuned into to watch ads than provide insight.

    • Constantin says

      @ Bumble bee
      I think that a good start would be to stop using journalism as a tool for social engineering and come to terms with the idea that readers should be free to reach their own conclusions. I sincerely doubt that the corruption of journalism is anything but a symptom of the emergence of an intolerant ideology which insists on being called “liberalism” despite its obvious divorce from classical liberal values. With the advent of intolerance readership splits and the result is a snowballing effect of mutually reinforcing phenomena. Thus, ideologized journalism becomes a cause by further accelerating that snowball down the hill. At the end of that road there is nothing but misery and social strife. How much I hope that well intended people that I know and love could see it and join in an effort to stop it before history repeats itself with a vengeance! 🙁

  7. Kevin Herman says

    When polled a sold majority of Americans say they do not trust the press and that the press is biased in there coverage. This pre-dates Trump although he has helped crystalize the issue. Its also doesnt really matter that Trump sometimes calls stuff fake news that isn’t there is plenty of real fake news even if it is an irritating term. The Covington Cathotlic boys story is a good example of the kind of journalistic malfeasance that is regularly on display in this day and age. White kids with Maga hats = have to be the devil. Old Indian guy with drum = automatic hero/saint. Journalists might want to ask themselves why that is that so many Americans don’t trust them and not all the other nonsense they are asking themselves and casting themselves as martyrs that meanie old Trump is going to put in a camp any day now.

    • peterschaeffer says

      KM, You left out the Jussie Smollett fantasy tale… And completely fake UVA story (“A Rape on Campus”). Of course, there are some truly terrible UVA stories that are not fake at all. Curiously, the “press” ignores them.

  8. Closed Range says

    It’s a shame the author didn’t find any space to talk about how increasingly, “news” and “journalism” has become less about the facts of what has happened, and more about opinion shaping with a few anecdotes to spice things up. When I go to, let’s say, The Guardian, all I say is pages and pages of opinion pieces by so-called journalist, who are little more than entitled arrogant and largely ignorant clickbaiters. Most of the mainstream centrist and right leaning press is rather similar. The other thing that has changed is that now all the papers largely just tell the world about everyone’s little spats on twitter, which are just profoundly boring.

    Next, I point to the incessant number of bad faith hit-piece articles “X accused of Y” when even the paper doesn’t believe seriously the allegations, and really ought to ignore it. The treatment of Brett Kavanaugh is a good example of this, where even the left wing media knew they had largely fabricated the story and had nothing on him. However, as long as they claim they are quoting a third person, they are covering their asses as far as defamation lawsuits go. Frankly, we are all sick of this shit.

    And finally, I point to how many mainstream media organisations, like the Guardian, have prostituted themselves to whichever big organisation will pay them to push their propaganda., be it the EU or George Soros. It’s noticeable how The Guardian really went downhill when they started accepting and asking for donations. They’ve become little more than a propaganda outfit.

    Frankly, I have no respect for these type of journalists and I hope the market wipes them out.

    • Kevin Herman says

      If a woman came out against an Obama supreme court nominee and she had never told her story to anyone for about 30 years, couldn’t say exactly when or where it happened, and claimed her best friend was there (who is still a friend) and that friend denied being there the press would have refused to cover the story or made that ladies life so miserable she would have retracted the charges.

      • E. Olson says

        Sorry Kevin, but you have it wrong, so let me correct your statement:.

        If a woman came out against an Obama supreme court nominee (i.e. a reliable vote for unrestricted abortion rights and gun confiscation) and she told her story about rape and sexual assault to several people immediately after it happened, reported it to the police, and everyone backed up her story, the mainstream press would have refused to cover the story or made that ladies life so miserable she would have retracted the charges.

  9. Morgan Foster says

    “I am not naïve.”

    Well, Mr. Greto, despite your impressive formal qualifications, I think you are, or else you are feigning it.

    There has never been a time in the history of the United States that journalists did not serve the interests of the share holders of their companies before the interests of truth, justice and the American way.

    There has never been a time when the American consumers of journalism did not pick their newspapers and, later, their televised news programs based on personal preference and bias.

    You must be teaching an alternative history of journalism.

  10. Hmmm says

    At first reading, I nodded in agreement with much of this speech. (Using the newsroom shoot-up and the 48th-place ranking as evidence seemed fishy, and does in fact appear to be an example of bad journalism, as commenters have pointed out.)

    But on further reflection, it’s mostly a lot of vague, “non-actionable” statements that most anyone can sign on to, including people with diametrically opposed views of the problems with the media today, as we can see from the comments. At least it’s intended to be self-critical, at a time when journalists are more likely to celebrate themselves. However, without concrete examples of good and bad journalism, it’s nice-sounding hot air. Of course, concrete examples are open to challenge and will alienate some people. Risking pissing off one’s social/political/cultural tribe is the courage journalists need today, and it’s precisely what’s lacking in this piece.

    • Morgan Foster says


      “the 48th-place ranking as evidence seemed fishy …

      Just for fun, poke around in the “Reporters Without Borders” website and in particular, the section on the methodology they used to make up their listing.

      Anything named “Without Borders” is likely to be fishy, as well as anyone who cites to them.

    • Respek Wahmen says

      Self-critical? It’s at least as likely to be an intentional piece of propaganda (at least the transcription–the original speech could be said to be virtue signalling for that particular audience). What’s lacking is certainly because of intentional omission, for some of the reasons you stated, except it’s clear what side he’s on. #enemy of the people 🙂 Either that or he linked reporters without borders having absolutely no knowledge about who they were.

    • Constantin says

      You make a valid observation, but I fear that when it comes to forming new journalists in school there is not much more that can be added to point them in the right direction. The courage you speak off needs the backing and support of the organization, without which becomes merely an employment suicide. I think we are witnessing a phenomenon where the gutsy journalists break free and go solo, because the corporate media has no room for independent journalism any more. I no longer take my news exclusively from any of the mainstream media organizations and pity those who still cling to that method of staying informed. Instead, I have a rather laborious and time consuming system of cross-referencing that includes many independents. For what is worth….

  11. peterschaeffer says

    Today I heard a “report” about how the House of Representatives just passed the so-called “Equality Act”. Amazingly enough, the report failed to mention that the “Equality Act” would wipe out women’s sports in the USA (a point amply covered by Quillette). So much for journalism in the USA. Well organized, Fake News, would be a better description.

  12. Jim Gorman says

    Journalists have turned into bigots.

    When was the last time you heard one ask Bernie just what percent of income should go to local, state, & federal income tax, property taxes, and sales taxes? Journalists just want to tell the public the rich should pay more. They are bigoted against the rich.

    When was the last time you saw a big article about wait times in countries with socialized medicine? When has a reporter asked a progressive how they would make sure that wait times did not increase to see a doctor or get treatment? They are bigoted against insured pay-as-you-go medical systems.

    Pick any subject, when can you honestly say you heard a reporter ask a hard question about a subject the reporter obviously has a position on? Not dealing with both sides equally about an issue is being bigoted.

    The only answer I have ever gotten is that it is not the reporters job to dig out both sides since there are other outlets you can find that give you the other side! To quote a comedian “Here’s your sign!”

    • Daniel Voisin says

      A journalist job IS to dig both sides. So when a person claims to be a journalist but isn’t doing this they’re not a journalist. They’re more a PR person or to put it more clearly they’re a propagandist. Just because they SAY they’re a journalist doesn’t actually make them one.

      Interestingly I did some quick Googling about wait times. Fox, CNN, and the NY Times all had stories about it with Fox only being negative but CNN and the NYT showing both sides. MSNBC on the other hand had absolutely none.

  13. EK says

    The US has been burdened with a propaganda press since 7 December 1941.

  14. candyman says

    I used to think the first line of a paragraph was important, now I look at the author first.. Wesley College / journalist / professor, stopped right there, already know the story. Works every time.

  15. Albigensian says

    The biggest threat to journalists and journalism isn’t Pres. Trump, it’s … journalists, and journalism.

    Wasn’t it the New York Times (our self-appointed “newspaper of record”) that declared Trump was just so awful that it would not, could not, persist in delivering “All the News That’s Fit To Print” but would be, (must be!) openly, obviously, and exclusively a platform for opposing Trump?

    Of course, the New York Times has an absolute First Amendment right to do just that (right up to the limit of printing credible threats, at least). But why is it necessary to point out that Pres. Trump’s First Amendment rights, while no greater than those of the New York Times, are also no less?

    What much of the public might appreciate is for journalists to get off their “We’re the only thing between you and tyranny!” World-Savior’s Pedestal (“Hero of the Republic”) and get back to the quotidian business of reporting the “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.” And, please, take off that superhero cape?

    A little less political bias would be appreciated as well. Your publication has an editorial page for that, doesn’t it?

  16. Weasels Ripped My Flesh says

    Every now and then, a news person will report on a topic that I am highly informed about. Perhaps a sporting event that I attended, something local to my neighborhood, or something within my professional field. Each time this happens, I think – wow, this person is not accurately reporting. And I am not referring to politics/opinion/slant, I am referring to facts. So, since 99.9% of news is about topics on which I know little or nothing, no way I trust the reporting to be accurate or complete. So, I am left with the smell test. And, it almost always stinks.

  17. Thomas Barnidge says

    No, professor, journalism isn’t about “(keeping) tabs on the powers-that-be, from federal and state governments to college administrations.” Journalism is about reporting the facts and let the chips fall where they may. Sure, your ego wants you to be Woodward and Bernstein, but the truth is sometimes the CEO of a corporation is in the right, and the lowly Joe Schmo is in the wrong. Report the facts, and the reader will determine the significance.

    • Daniel Voisin says

      Right but the reason it’s said the Fourth Estate needs to keep tabs on the powers that be is to say they need to be willing to expose the facts even when they are inconvenient to the powerful. Which should be done by presenting just the facts and allowing the reader to draw conclusions. Journalism should be done as unbiased as possible but today we more often than not see opinion pieces masquerading as news or very slight bias by exclusion.

  18. Denny Sinnoh says

    “What then is the duty of a free press?”

    Stop lying for starters.

  19. Nakatomi Plaza says

    My god, only at Quillette would people read this an anything other than a legitimate defense of journalism. What a bunch of psycho reactionaries around here.

    You losers just cannot stand it when the world doesn’t bow at your feet and revolve around your precious feelings, can you?

    • derek says

      This high sounding rhetoric really doesn’t mean anything. For two reasons.

      It avoids the fundamental characteristics of a good reporter. An insatiable curiosity and a bloody minded determination to not believe anything. There are a few like that, and they aren’t the ones currying favor and quoting anonymous sources. Most journalists resemble preachers who figure it is their responsibility to tell everyone what is right and wrong.

      The second reason is tied to who pays for it. I would be interested in reading about the transition from yellow journalism to a more even hand media. I think that there were quite a few people who became unbelievably rich by figuring out how to do that. For all it’s faults the funding mechanisms imposed a discipline upon the craft that was healthy for everyone. Not talking about how those mechanisms funded reporters at the same time putting in place limits so that the media output reflected the reality of its readership is to miss the import of the changes we are seeing now.

      • Joana George says

        Hey derek,

        I’m no expert, but I’d like to leave here the main points I got from a book I read a while back (“Trust me, I’m lying” by Ryan Holiday) regarding this subject.

        Adolph S. Ochs of the New York times is credited with starting the move away from yellow journalism. He was the first to solicit subscriptions via telephone and had an overall very aggressive campaign to get subscribers. He assumed that people bought the yellow papers because they were cheap so he matched the competitors price and compete on content

        Here’s a quote from the book that made a lot of sense to me: “A subscription model offers necessary subsidies to the nuance that is lacking in the kind of stories that flourish in one-off distribution. Opposing views can now be included. Uncertainty can be acknowledged. Humanity can be allowed. Since articles don’t have to spread on their own, but rather as part of the unit, publishers don’t need to exploit valence to drive single-use buyers.”

    • Denny Sinnoh says

      Glad you have found God now
      Tomi-Chan !

  20. CA says

    “What then is the duty of a free press?

    It demands governmental and corporate—all institutional—accountability; it demands a passion for the Fourth Estate’s independent history; it demands a profound understanding of its First Amendment role to inform citizens about what is happening locally, nationally and internationally; it demands an understanding that our readers or viewers constitute an entire community.”

    But what happens when that community fragments, when two or more communities no longer share common values?

    It appears that this is precisely what has happened in America and elsewhere. The most elemental of values – the rule of law, the integrity of borders etc – are no longer commonly shared. How can a journalist represent communities which no longer share common interests?

    I would argue that the first duty of a free press is to understand who they are, what community of values they represent. All else follows from this. There is no such thing as a pure objective journalist, anyone who claims this simply is deluded and inevitably the puppet of an unacknowledged master.

    What we see today are journalists who hide behind their methodologies as they are clearly possessed by some ideological agenda. “Fake News” is not so much untrue as it is news which tries to pass itself off as objective while clearly in the service of an ideological agenda.

    There is such a thing as responsible journalism. As a representative of a community a journalist must communicate what the community needs to hear not simply what it wants to hear. This is where journalism can legitimately be called objective.

    • Peter from Oz says

      ”What then is the duty of a free press?”
      It doesn’t have a duty. It’s not a government body or a military unit or a fiduciary, just an enterprise that reports news.
      If it does that in a way that makes money for its shareholders, then it has done its job.
      The more important duty is the duty of the members of society to educate themselves enough to be able to see through the logical fallacies and the opinion disguised as news that we are presented with by all media.
      WHen I read or listen to a news story, my first action is to try and understand the facts. I ignore anything the reporter tells me that is mere opinion or hearsay.
      I can do this more easily than a lot of people because of my legal training.
      I suggest that we need to have schools teach children how to understand a logical argument and how to distinguish facts from suppositions. A course in the rules of evidence would be a good thing.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @Peter from Oz

        I’d also like to see, at the secondary levels, courses in sophisticated techniques of lying in journalism and academia.

        If one knows how to lie – as a journalist or a researcher – then one is better equipped to defend against it.

  21. I stopped reading when he mentioned the Reports without Borders rankings as if they are based on any serious objective metrics.

    As another person pointed out in the first comment here, the RWB ranking rationale admits that it is not driven by actual threats or harm, but because Trump says things like “fake news.” It’s a farce.

  22. Harbinger says

    ….nope, Mr Greto has failed to make the case for any current viable role for communications intermediation by the institutions which have occupied it since the 18th century.

  23. Wil Raper says

    Hey Honey,

    Call me when the “free press” stops being stenographers for Democrats and starts to hold them to account.

    Until then keep hanging out with the other Progressives that comprise the faculty at Wellesley.

  24. Anonymous says

    “Hatred of the media is now such that a man walked into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2018 and opened fire, killing four journalists and one other member of the newspaper’s staff. The gunman had repeatedly expressed his hatred for the paper on social networks before ultimately acting on his words.”

    This is a very misleading incident to cite. The author wants to give the impression that this man generally “hated the media” and therefore did a massacre in a newspaper office.

    In reality, the guy had a longstanding personal beef with the newspaper following their reporting of the story about how the perp had a history of harassing a high-school acquaintance.

    How ironic. People dislike the media because of misleading stories – and the author is a journalist who talks about this – while repeating the same problem inside his piece.

    Kind of recursive or self-referential.

  25. CTE says

    Overall I shy away from suggesting a problem (in this case the state of journalism) has an easy answer, and the same is true here.

    You can find a myriad of reasons for the decline of journalism (and trust in it):

    Financial models (ads) rely on outrage and sensation.
    Along with the first, ad revenue also creates conflicts of interest.
    Trained journalists seem to be trained activists.

    But there is another reason that doesn’t get talked about enough, and to me, could be the biggest issue:


    Recent reports have shown that only 2% of the US population is active on Twitter. I would love to see another report showing how many journalists are active on Twitter. If I’m right, it will be almost all journalists.

    This is important because whenever I have a desire to destroy my faith in humanity, I spend a little time on twitter. I think we all know what I mean. The world of Twitter is nothing like the real world unless you happen to be living in one of the few places currently experiencing the horrors of war.

    If part of a journalists job is to hold a mirror up to the world, and they live in the world of Twitter, can they really do their job effectively? I don’t think so. In the Twitter world, the stakes are too high to merely discuss the trade-offs of a specific policy. This is life and death people!

  26. San Fernando Curt says

    The problem began when journalism became advocacy journalism. Advocacy journalism isn’t journalism, it’s propaganda. Dump it. Nobody’s interested in a reporter’s searing insights on social morality, neither should anyone expect those stuttering eurekas are superior to their own.

  27. Bernard Pech says

    Please name any journalist today who approaches the news with the integrity exercised everyday by Robert MacNeil & Jim Lehrer in their daily 1975 to 2009 News Hour? That is: When doing an interview to explore an issue in the news, invite two or more politicians/members of the administration with different views; only ask open questions; formulate follow-up questions based on information/position expressed by one of the interviewees; make sure that your opinion about the issue is never reviled. When wanting to refocus the discourse, always attribute any quotation formulated as preamble to a specific source.
    Most (all?) news channels today have an agenda, well understood by the anchor and his supporting cast. The News is bent to that agenda. Boring and uninteresting.

  28. Cedric says

    It’s funny to me that on one hand people will agree that the media these days is at best a joke and at worst an evil propaganda machine. On the other hand these same people are incensed over Trump mistreating these media folks.

    If we despise the media (as many do), why do we care how Trump treats them?

    • Respek Wahmen says

      Regressives think people despise the media because Trump wrongly calls them out, when it’s really because they’re despicable. And we like Trump because we think he rightly calls them out. He doesn’t necessarily have to do it in the way he does, but it’s hilarious. Trump has far more integrity than this diabolical Greto fella. Trump isn’t smart enough to be as evil as most regressives effectively are.

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