October 3, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I kept asking the same questions? I know in the past I have posed the hypothetical quandary to you as readers asking what we would do if there were no newspapers. In the past I have used this image to get across points about increasing postage and printing costs and other threats against the industry. But today it is simply in an effort to raise people's appreciation of the medium. The timing of this piece falls in line with the nationwide recognition generated by National Newspaper Week October 6-12.

You've heard me talk about newspaper plenty so I thought I would call upon some of the most famous words in the business, the Journalist's Creed by Walter Williams, founding dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, my alma mater.

The creed goes as follows:

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 their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust.

I believe that clear thinking and 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 pocketbook 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 the supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.

I believe that the journalism which succeeds 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 privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and, as far as law and 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.

As we commemorate this special week for newspapers, I admit it is nearly as important for writers, reporters and editors to take the opportunity to review the creed, as it is for our industry to try to build public awareness and support of what newspaper mean to each reader. Ultimately the two go hand in hand, as a quality newspaper goes a long way in marketing itself.

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