I am the Fourth Estate

An opinion editorial by Mark DeLap about the Fourth Estate

I am.

 

I am the voice of those who can not, may not or who are not allowed to speak. I am the eyes of those who have been blinded by injustice or who have their eyes clenched in fear due to intimidation.

 

I am the ears of those who have lost their will and their heart to hear.  

 

I am the Fourth Estate.  I am the thin line between what is right and what is being hushed.  

 

While celebrating the Fourth of July, there is a reminder of the power of the press. During the revolution, the written word was instrumental in our break with the British.  Not only in the big cities, but in the small bergs where the war was won. The press was deemed so important that the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights expressly forbids our Government from interfering with the press:

 

The 1st Amendment of the Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom ... of the press.” The Constitution establishes a government with three branches, but it does not establish a press or a media. What it does do is prohibit the government from trying to control what people say, either in the press (and by extension in other forms of media) or outside the press.

 

When you take an oath as a journalist, it doesn’t matter where you work. Small town or large metropolis. The oath can not and must not change. Some have said that we need to be more positive and shouldn’t have all the bad things in the news. Some even have canceled newspaper subscriptions because journalists have dared to tell the truth without candy coating it.

 

There is not one news outlet in America that is worth it’s salt that paints roses in the battlefield or covers the grimace of life when it’s cruel. At the same time, that same press relishes in printing the picture of the sailor kissing the nurse when the battle is over.  

 

When you become a journalist, you make promises to your audience.  You pull back the blankets to uncover the bedbugs – no matter how big the bed or how popular the venue. The promises are made to protect the credibility of the fabric of our life. It’s to earn the trust by telling the whole truth, no matter how stark it may be.

 

When you pick up a newspaper or turn into the true journalists of our age, although few and far between, you may not realize that there is a code that stands behind each word. As artists, journalists paint images with their words and unfortunately, as in every profession there are those who try to suppress, dilute and taint for personal gain.

With each decision to “make everyone happy” or “let’s not rock the boat” or “let’s paint this deceiver in a positive light,” it can undermine and erode the standards that have been established for ethical and truthful reporting.

 

Journalists who write to protect their own popularity are as dangerous as the ones who write to line their own pockets. There remains in the midst of the unpopular – an oath.  Some do not have the stomach for it.

 

It isn’t about where you write your story – it’s about how you write your story. If it is altered in any way shape or form, you have truly been misinformed as to the role of a journalist.

 

Does a doctor in a small town need to be any less caring and careful when dealing with a patient?   When cancer is diagnosed, would the doctor not want to share the diagnosis to spare the feelings of the family?  Absolutely not.  Because of his oath.

 

A journalist’s oath is best outlined in its creed, and when there is no creed, there is damage done to the Fourth Estate.

I believe in the profession of Journalism. I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that all acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust. I believe that clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism. I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true. I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible. I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends. I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service. I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent; unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship, is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.

 

I am a journalist. I am going to continue to reveal truth to the best of my ability, from city hall to the back alley. I am. The newspaper.

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