Journalism: Honoring reporters who seek the truth
At the turn of the 20th Century, President Theodore Roosevelt was facing a nation in which immigration and its political consequences was igniting — and changing — the population. Industry and technology were evolving quickly, banks and stock market investors were amassing enormous power over ordinary people, and there was nationwide suspicion about corruption in government and the true intentions of those in power.
During that time, Roosevelt became irritated with a group of journalists who were informing readers in a way that had never been seen before. (In fact, reporter Jacob Riis was a muckraker who had been among the first Americans to use flash photography — photos accompanying the series of newspaper articles that became “How the Other Half Lives,” showed most Americans the dark corners of New York City’s slums for the first time.)
Even Roosevelt recognized, however, that the reporters he bristled against were essential to the country he loved.
“Men with the muck-rake are often indispensable to the well-being of society,” he said.
Journalism matters. NOW more than ever. That is the theme of this year’s National Newspaper Week — Oct. 7-13, and it is a reminder that as those who sought to report the truth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were indispensable in keeping our evolving nation out of the dark, reporters are still indispensable today.
Newspaper reporters ask questions. We seek the facts. We aim to tell the whole story. We give readers the information they need to make their own decisions. And when we get it wrong, we correct it. When our readers tell us we have missed something, we ask more questions. When rumors and accusations begin to fly on social media, our readers know they can turn to us for the real story. We work every day to continue earning that trust.
And it matters. It matters most when some in power hope to turn our readers against us. It matters most when readers find themselves wondering of their elected officials “What don’t they want want me to read? What don’t they want me to know?”