coromandal


the 4th estate
June 9, 2011, 6:08 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

We used to believe in the role of the press as guardian for the people and against the powerful – eons ago.  Is the idea of the press as the fourth estate still a good idea?  It seems quaint, for a world that has passed.  I haven’t looked at polls, but this new generation doesn’t seem to care about purposeful, structural institutions like the press.

A new day has dawned where all that’s a bore.  Now it’s all infotainment, for profit, full of scandal.  And people seem willing to believe that checking power and maintaining a semblance of justice don’t need a purpose built, guardian institution.  It’s the same as believing that bankers will govern themselves etc.

And maybe they’re right.  Anyway there’s the new media and Wikileaks and the Colbert Report all of which evolved during the last decade as a response to perceived abuses in our society.  And they’re not members of the establishment media in America.

Whether you believe in institutionalized or grassroots media, it is difficult to deny the impact that the press has on our freedoms.  Jim Leher was a lion on the public broadcasting system in America for the past half century.  Like no one else, he had the uncanny ability to transcend politics, personality and influence to bring a nightly report on the news of the nation and world.  No polemic, editorializing, fiction, pettiness, platitudes.

How did he do it?  It seems that he kept believing the old definitions of what a press is to the proper function of a society.  Following is a list of maxims, as described by his long time colleague Robert MacNeil, by which Mr Leher conducted himself:

1. DO NOTHING I CAN NOT DEFEND…
2. COVER, WRITE AND PRESENT EVERY STORY WITH THE CARE I WOULD WANT IF THE STORY WERE ABOUT ME…
3. ASSUME THERE IS AT LEAST ONE OTHER SIDE OR VERSION TO EVERY STORY…
4. ASSUME THE VIEWER IS AS SMART AND CARING AND GOOD A PERSON AS I AM…
5. ASSUME THE SAME ABOUT ALL PEOPLE ON WHOM I REPORT…
6. ASSUME PERSONAL LIVES ARE A PRIVATE MATTER UNTIL A LEGITIMATE TURN IN THE STORY ABSOLUTELY MANDATES OTHERWISE…
7. CAREFULLY SEPARATE OPINION AND ANALYSIS FROM STRAIGHT NEWS STORIES… AND CLEARLY LABEL EVERYTHING…
8. DO NOT USE ANONYMOUS SOURCES OR BLIND QUOTES, EXCEPT ON RARE AND MONUMENTAL OCCASIONS. NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE ALLOWED TO ATTACK ANOTHER ANONYMOUSLY…
9. AND… FINALLY… I AM NOT IN THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS…

Jim Leher’s rules as described by Robert MacNeil, Jim Leher’s Stealthy Exit, Robert MacNeil, The Daily Beast

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