Friday, January 24, 2020

journalism of integrity for educational leadership

The day of Jim Lehrer’s death, the PBS News Hour posted an excellent article on the site, “Remembering Jim Lehrer.” Note midway down, right sidebar, “Jim Lehrer’s Rules.” Today, there were on-camera remembrances. (It’s much better to see the video than to read the transcript.)

Mr. Lehrer’s exemplarity is worthy of lasting admiration, and the public virtue of journalistic integrity is essential to our humanity.

An overarching theme of the News Hour’s marking of Mr. Lehrer’s passing away is that it’s not mere remembrance, but validation of his continuing model, mentoring, and lead as “north star” (Judy Woodruff’s avowal). Over and over, staff and friends are affirming that Mr Lehrer remains alive as the standard for journalism that he led.

It seems to me that excellent journalism is largely a thankless job, in the sense that incredible work may go into developing a story before it’s printed or broadcast, only to presume a few minutes of others’ time for reading or to view, then on to the next story. (Thank goodness for long-sighted archives of excellent work—and inquiring minds who note stories for future reference).

In our accelerating 24/7 news cycle, young talent may feel good reason to not persist with aspirations in journalism, especially with the accelerating demise of local venues. Future shock has no end of new ways to emerge.

We all could be well reminded of the importance of local journalism for the creation and sustaining of a good locality, especially inasmuch as The Good Society is really just a composite of its localities.

So, it’s vital that there be durable standard bearers that inspire, as well as to be effectively standard.

The range and depth of the News Hour is so consistently excellent that one might almost take it for granted, like taking some excellent part of one’s own life for granted.

I wish and hope that the News Hour has all of the funding that they could ever want, secured forever. There ought to be a Jim Lehrer endowment for journalism that becomes rich.

I wish and hope that journalistic excellence prevails over the awful commonality of news seeming to be largely a vehicle for advertising, rather than ads sponsoring excellent journalism. (So good that Judy Woodruff came back from a home shopping network. [That’s a joke Mr. Lehrer made to Ms. Woodruff when she left CNN.])

I want to see more appreciation of the civic virtue that journalism serves, but more: appreciation of the educational leadership that journalism, in principle, is.

We often regard journalism as means of being well informed. But if you look at the structure of in-depth reporting—its engagement with background, explication, and linking to analyses—it is educational at its core, not just as a support to a democratic ethos (the “Fourth Estate”), but as a matter of cultivating our humanity, teaching us to be well, teaching us why to inquire largely, how to think newly; and insisting that we advance community.