Journalist's Duty Is To Challenge Those In Power


In his farewell address, George Washington warned a young nation to avoid entangling alliances.

In a farewell interview with the Associated Press, retiring journalist, Bill Moyers, warned a graying nation that it no longer has "a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."

For three decades, Bill Moyers has been the consummate journalist, serving as publisher of "Newsday," host of "This Week" and "Bill Moyers' Journal," and, most recently, the weekly PBS newsmagazine "Now." He has won more than 30 Emmys and 10 Peabody awards, and he's also an ordained Baptist minister.

Moyers argues that what we have today is "an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line."

There are those, of course, who would disagree with Moyers' assessment of the political leanings of the press, but it is difficult to argue with his basic premise -- that a journalist's ultimate duty is to challenge those in power.

In an era when the perceived threat of terrorism is used as an excuse for watering down the basic freedoms upon which this nation was founded, it is more important than ever to heed Moyers' words.

And it is a responsibility that we must take seriously at all levels. Even, and sometimes especially, in rural communities like Payson, newspapers are expected to be shills and mouthpieces for government agencies and other institutions. Small staffs too often make investigative reporting difficult, if not impossible.

But we must all, citizens and journalists alike, take Moyers admonition to heart. No matter where we stand politically, no matter which direction we believe the American press leans, we must all understand and support the watchdog role of the media.

While George Washington was talking about entangling alliances with foreign countries, his farewell message reinforces that of Moyers'.

For the media to fulfill that role, it must be independent and open-minded. Because sometimes the greatest enemies of freedom are disguised as friends.

Freedom requires more than vigilance against terrorism. It requires vigilance against all human failings and excesses.

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