The great Catholic thinker G.K. Chesterton once quipped, “’My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’”
Chesterton makes a good point; a patriot loves the ideals his country stands for, and when it fails to live up to them he ought to be incensed. But I am not here today to write about patriotism. No, my topic is, instead, journalists, and why you should criticize us more.
You’ve probably seen the whole Covington boys and Native American veteran debacle from last weekend, and I don’t see much point in getting into the details of it here. In the aftermath, though, The Washington Post ran an interesting story in which the writers shifted the blame for the situation to “The pro-Trump Internet,” which they claimed pounced — conservatives often pounce, according to mainstream media headlines — on the opportunity to undermine the credibility of the press. The Post had initially run a story promoting the later-debunked notion that the boys had initiated contact with the veteran in order to harass him. Rather than apologize for their paper’s part in publishing, quite literal, fake news, the writers tried to argue the criticism they received was, in fact, an attack on the free press.
This line of thinking is absurd.
Journalists hold a uniquely powerful position in society, and, as such, our mistakes can wreck lives. Criticism from the public is necessary to hold us accountable and to remind us that we, like everyone else, are fallible.