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Monday, September 20, 2004

Moyers' speech

I promised to post Bill Moyers' incredible speech from the SPJ National Convention here when it was made available. And here it is. It's a long speech, but a good read. Moyers will be retiring in three months and said, "I cannot imagine a better turn into the home stretch than this morning with you." His delivery was akin to that of a southern preaching, delivering his sermon to the faithful gathered in the revival tent.

Here are two excerpts to spur you to read on:

"Journalism has been a continuing course in adult education–—my own; other people paid the tuition and travel, and I've never really had to grow up and get a day job. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I've enjoyed the company of colleagues as good as they come, who kept inspiring me to try harder.

"They helped me relearn another of journalism's basic lessons. The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. Unless you're willing to fight and refight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work with nuts going over every last detail to make certain you've got it right, and then take hit after unfair hit accusing you of 'bias,' or these days even a point of view, there's no use even trying. You have to love it, and I do."

He concluded his speech with this:
"We have it so easy here in this country. America is a utopia for journalists. Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes, told me a couple of years ago that 'the 1990s were a terrible time for journalism in this country but a wonderful time for journalists; we're living like Jack Welch,' he said, referring to the then CEO of General Electric. Perhaps that is why we weren't asking tough questions of Jack Welch. Because we have it so easy in America, we tend to go easy on America -- so easy that maybe (former Baltimore Sun reporter David) Simon's right; compaired to entertainment and propaganda, maybe journalism doesn't matter.

"But I approach the end of my own long run believing more strongly than ever that the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined. The late Martha Gellhorn, who spent have a century reporting on war and politicians -- and observing journalists, too -- eventually lost her faith that journalism could, by itself, change the world. but the act of keeping the record straight is valuable in itself, she said. 'Serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior, involving the reporter and the reader.' I second that. I believe democracy requires 'a sacred contract' between journalists and those who put their trust in us to tell them what we can about how the world really works."

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