Oct 15

"The Responsibility of the Press"

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 10/15/2018 6:00AM | Quote of the Week | Public Service

"The Responsibility of the Press"

Our Quote of the Week highlights the importance of journalists. It suggests that, at their best, journalists provide a public service -- to communicate stories that affect the well being of society.

Speaking on the state of education in 1957, Sargent Shriver made the point that comprehensive coverage by the press could be a great boon to public school systems around the country. Journalists could demonstrate the schools' dire need for resources, which had the potential to cut through the conservative, "economy-minded" rhetoric that was keeping taxes low but that was depriving schools of funding. A better informed Congress, Sarge believed, could make better informed decisions. One could certainly say the same of a better informed public.

Sargent Shriver had a close relationship with journalism throughout his life. While he studied at Yale, he was the Editor of the Yale Daily News, one of the country's most prestigious university newspapers. He also worked for Time magazine in the 1930s and later on joined Newsweek as an assistant editor.

Sarge continued his close relationship with journalists throughout his political career. He recognized, even when he was under intense scrutiny from the media, that the work of journalists is to maintain transparency. As a politician, he knew never to fear a reporter's questions, but to instead collaborate with them in service of the public good. He invited journalists to shadow Peace Corps volunteers and to observe the work of War on Poverty programs. When asked about this practice, he stressed that journalists would be able to report on successes as well as problems in the field, ensuring transparency and allowing for more efficient problem solving.

We're living in a moment where being a journalist and pursuing a cause that affects the well being of people has become dangerous. Political leaders, including our own, are belittling the work of qualified members of the media and labeling much of it as "fake." Journalists around the world are being imprisoned, violated, and killed for pursuing their work, particularly when it relates to political corruption. According to the International Federation of Journalists, 73 members of the media have been killed thus far in 2018. Needless to say, none of this is acceptable. It is up to all of us to be vocal in our support of free media and to stay informed on all issues of social consequence, using the stories that journalists work so hard to create, at times with great sacrifice.

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Michele Smith

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11/02/2018 2:14 PM