Sedona, Arizona





Journalists United to Sustain the Truth


         Journalists should be agents of truth, not courtiers of power.   Thomas Paine


It's no secret that journalists everywhere are exasperated with the shortcomings of today's mainstream corporate media.

In the book The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age, author Philip Meyer states that journalists should organize to take a stand against violations of the industry’s founding principles.

And Christine Tatum, president of the Society for Professional Journalists, referred to Meyer‘s book in the August issue of the organization’s Quill magazine: “He simply thinks we should start naming names even if it means we’re criticizing specific journalists and news organizations,” she wrote. “I agree.”

“Trying to reform investors, editors and publishers is a good idea, but let’s not wait for those people to change their ways,” Meyer concludes. “Those of us who practice or teach journalism at ground level will make progress with greater speed and certainty if we also organize to reform ourselves.”

The Sedona Observer invites all journalists to join in a new national movement designed to end the fragmentation and competition currently dividing members of the Fourth Estate. But before we go into further detail, let's take a step back into the journalistic past to gain some perspective.

Intellectual slavery

In 1880, a distinguished New York Times journalist named John Swinton gave a speech before a group of his colleagues.  The words he spoke carry an eerily timeless message for his media descendants today:

There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions and, if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.

If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before 24 hours my occupation would be gone.

The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it.

We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

Can any of us make the same claim? I certainly can, which is why I launched this paper, just as Swinton left the mainstream press to publish his own newspaper documenting the labor struggles of his day.


Bound to the truth or bound to a paycheck?

As journalists we should be bound together to report the truth instead of bound as intellectual slaves to captive publishers who often toss us crumbs in exchange for our efforts. The time has come for us to look closer at where and how we are casting our journalistic pearls.

Let’s leave the disgraceful advertising control of our news agendas and the body-bag sensationalism to the profit-obsessed media monopolies. We must stand collectively as journalists first and publishing employees second.

Just as Michael Moore observes that health care should embrace human welfare before profits, so too should media focus on social concerns over revenues. Profit's fine as long as it doesn't mean paying people less or neglecting issues to please advertisers.

Mutual support

As journalists, we act from many shared principles. Yet we often work our beats in isolation from one another. We need to share information amongst ourselves and more widely through the media with the public at large.

Why does it take an annual conference, awards banquet or occasional seminar or to bring us together as a profession? Rather, we must gather on a regular basis in our communities to discuss the pertinent issues each and every one of us should be covering as well as to share the challenges we face as journalists today. Let's bring back the principles of the guild to unite ourselves as professionals with a duty to our readers and society in general.   

Taking responsibility

Our responsibility is not to fiercely territorial publishers steeped in their own personal agendas but to the essence of journalism: to report the issues for the common good – not to serve advertisers, power brokers, business groups or other special interests.

Questions? For more information, send your name, title, media outlet and e-mail to editor@SedonaObserver.com. All inquiries will remain confidential for obvious reasons.

The power of the pen belongs in our hands – and not in the grip of greed, manipulation and avarice.




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