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The new challenging age for journalism

Commanded respect: an American reporter admired by the nation

There is an old saying that a lie travels much faster than the truth. Today, with massive modern communication gadgets sweeping the globe, very little takes place without others thousands of miles away being informed instantly — often with pictures and sound.

With such a maddening pace and reams of information flowing in all directions on just about every subject, the potential is there for inaccuracy and sometimes outright lies to be consumed as fact before truth can catch up. This creates problems for good journalists, who must strive to cut through a tidal wave of material to remain focused on what is truth and fact before filing a report.

The free press worldwide are up against so many forms of information in the cyberspace world that those who attempt to practise responsible journalism, with high standards of professionalism, are always in a state of wading through inaccuracies — and often a lie that has been pushed out as truth.

A distinguished journalist with many years of experience, Bill Moyer, during an interview with MSNBC, noted that all governments lie occasionally. And it was crucial for the press to be for ever vigilant in seeking facts to keep people properly informed. The press are often attacked when this is done, and this could at times affect major networks concerned about their overall image.

Journalism itself can come under scrutiny, if there is a perception by the public that truth may be bypassed to prevent an even bigger story from emerging. It is good to know that there are still journalists out there who strive for truth no matter how difficult the challenge.

In the political arena, especially, things can get very strained when negative information is revealed about someone holding office. The information could actually be false, but once it is flashed across cyberspace in seconds and gobbled up by the electronic gossipers, trying to set the record straight is an almost insurmountable task. The job of the journalist is to not become involved in making any type of judgment, but to focus only on what is known as fact.

With a new United States Government, such as that about to be set up by President-elect Donald Trump, who has courted controversy throughout his campaign, the press cannot afford to fall short in reporting as accurately as possible every move made to keep the people informed about what could be expected.

The same holds true here in Bermuda, where the political landscape recently underwent a change in leadership of the Opposition, the Progressive Labour Party. Political changes make interesting news stories, especially when there are mixed feelings about the direction in which the island is moving.

What most people do not want is political skirmishes between the One Bermuda Alliance government and the PLP to a degree where focus shifts from the critical needs of the people to political status-climbing. Good journalism must be the order of the day in keeping truth before the people.

Gwen Ifill, an American reporter who gained considerable praise and admiration from the nation for her work, was one of those journalists who never lost focus on what journalism is all about. She recently passed away at the age of 61 after a highly successful career during which she anchored the highly acclaimed NewsHour for PBS.

President Barack Obama said he had the greatest respect for her professionalism, even when she put tough questions to him. It is that type of journalism that keeps democracy alive. That should be task of all journalists.