As many know, Ben Bradlee, the famous editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate story and Pentagon Papers passed away. His funeral service was held yesterday and attended by a who’s who list of journalists and others. Bradlee was amply played by Jason Robards in the movie “All the President’s Men,” which many folks said captured the essence of the man. He wanted to be the first with a story, but he also wanted to be accurate.
He gave the freedom to be reporters to his staff, but unceasingly challenged them to get it right. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were about to accuse the President of the United States with being a crook. So, they better make sure the story was correct. Bradlee asking them to continually verify the facts is what makes the movie version of what they did so compelling. If they got it wrong, it would have been a disaster. But, the fact that about fifty people, including Richard Nixon’s key lieutenants, went to jail showed they got it right. But, the other key was Bradlee backed up his reporters in the face of a mountain of criticism.
We should all have bosses like that. Watching Woodward and Bernstein speak with Charlie Rose about Bradlee, a telling comment came out of which we should remind all journalists and pseudo-journalists. Woodward said Bradlee was often known to say “slow down” encouraging the reporters to take their time to do the homework, do the reporting and tell the story to the public. We need this more than ever, as too many want a quick sound bite report, sometimes on a Twitter feed, which leaves context, depth and accuracy at the train station.
So, we citizens, voters, and readers/ watchers of news need to challenge ourselves to get news from sources that are more trustworthy and offer more in-depth news reporting. We need to avoid the sensational and question things. We need to slow down. We need to be truth seekers. We need to hold our elected officials accountable and ask more questions of them. Truth be told, with so much money in politics, the hypocrisies, poor decisions, and conflicts in interest are rampant and the stories abound. We just need to slow down and pay attention. Thanks Ben Bradlee. *
* More on Bradlee can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Bradlee#Other_work
I like the idea of focusing on accuracy instead of speed. Even harder to enforce now, though, that no one has to wait for the 11:00 news or the next morning’s newspaper to break a story. I try not to jump too quickly on breaking news, and wait for the story to shape up a bit before I read or watch it.
That is a wise strategy. The stories seem to change over the course of a news cycle and beyond. Thanks for your comment.
I was thinking more about speed vs. accuracy and very much like Anexactinglife’s take on how she approaches news stories. But, CNN takes their time and still blows stuff out of proportion. All day news channels need filler, so they tend to ad nauseum cover and recover something to drive ratings, not unlike the local weather reports that cause fear of an impending thunder storm. They scare my 83 year old mother every time. I know as she calls me.
So, even taking time to get it right, can still over do a story. So, we need to marry Bradlee’s encouragements to say “slow down and take the time to get it right.” EBOLA in the US is something to worry about, but it is way over sold as scary here. Now, it is scary in West Africa, but note Nigeria is EBOLA free with their actions. Between CNN, Fox and an election cycle, it has been overblown.