Good journalism thrives on truth
Seeking truth, especially in the political arena, throughout the world, is a never-ending challenge for those who choose the noble profession of journalism. The real test for most journalists is to remain focused on getting at the truth in the face of bitter criticism, and even threats of harm for doing their job of keeping the public informed.
Good journalists, in gathering information, are mindful that accuracy is crucial because most importantly their credibility and trust gained could be irreversibly damaged if a story is published or broadcast and the public deem it as not representative of what was really happening.
It is a dilemma with excellent journalists around the world trying to operate according to good journalism codes that specify getting facts, even if it means being last to report.
Complicating the situation is that in the fast pace of social media sweeping the globe, people are gullible to misinformation without a second thought, and have doubts even after truth emerges.
When reports surfaced about a new virus, Covid-19, described as more deadly than the common flu, news organisations worldwide sensed something different in the air and reporters starting probing for more information.
There were not too many answers to questions because initially little was known about what was to become a massive pandemic that would cripple much of the world economy, leaving a staggering death toll. Although the World Health Organisation gave early warnings that a pandemic was likely, a number of leading nations were slow in reacting.
America, the most powerful nation on the planet, was preoccupied with an upcoming presidential election and most knew it would be highly contentious, with a president who since taking office had little regard for journalists, whom he labelled as fake news for asking too many questions.
It was going to be a rough ride for reporters, who were often confronted with rude treatment during press conferences at the White House. Some of the most experienced journalists were often insulted for raising questions the President felt were out of order. These men and women nevertheless remained composed because they knew, no matter what, that truth cannot be hidden for ever — even by those in the highest positions.
It was not a question of trying to bring someone down, but of seeking truth about a matter that had the potential for creating havoc with millions at risk. Top medical experts were becoming increasingly concerned, with reports of the virus getting a foothold in the United States and with an administration reluctant to inform the people about a new virus that is more deadly than the common flu.
In fact, President Donald Trump openly stated it was nothing to worry about, and in the warm weather would disappear. It was startling to learn later that Trump actually knew the virus was more deadly than the flu, but decided to play it down so as “not to panic the people”.
Several months later, America and much of the world wrestled with finding ways to curb the spread of a virus that was claiming lives in many countries at a rate difficult to comprehend outside of war conditions.
America was already in the grip of mass demonstrations under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. This sparked after the police killing of George Floyd, an incident shown around the world. America was confronted with questions over leadership. After months of protests, many veteran political observers felt something was changing in the way the country felt about the current leader. Nevertheless, Trump’s supporters were unmoved, with open support for his management of the nation’s affairs.
Journalists, in carrying out their profession of seeking truth, covered his rallies and functions, even though they were scorned at times as fake news before roaring Trump fans. Reporters knew it was part of the job. They also knew the nation was slowly becoming more aware that something was not right with an administration that seemed to be operating outside of the rulebook of ethics outlined in the Constitution.
All this with the coronavirus cutting deep into America’s infrastructure, leaving millions jobless and for the first time many getting into food lines in order to have something on the table for Thanksgiving. It was hard to believe this was happening in America.
The world is far from out of the woods in tackling the pandemic, although there are signs that a vaccine will be available soon that will offer protection against the virus. Distribution around the world is yet to be sorted out.
Meanwhile, here in Bermuda, our government deserves credit for acting quickly to prevent spreading of the virus, they urge caution and co-operation because the battle is not over yet.
Meanwhile, the recent presidential election was the opening for America to state loud and clear that under Trump the nation was moving In the wrong direction. Like a tidal wave, Americans waited in long lines for hours in all types of weather to cast their ballots for change.
For Trump, it was probably the shock of his life to wake up and discover that, despite his diehard supporters, as of January 20, 2021, he will have to check the classified columns.
Hopefully, his vow that he will never concede will melt away, and one day he will think more of the nation than himself.
America can be great only with unity in dealing with major problems. As long as good journalists remain committed to seeking truth, there will be hope for democracy throughout the world.