“The nervous system of any age or nation is its creative workers, its artists….Deny the art of our time its only spring, which is the true expression of its passionately personal problems and their purification through work, and you will be left with a soil of such aridity that not even a cactus plant could flower upon it.” — Tennessee Williams.
It may seem unusual to quote the immortal playwright Tennessee Williams in an editorial lauding the necessary role of a free and powerful press, but he speaks eloquently of “true expression,” and that’s something that transcends all barriers and speaks to every corner of everyone’s life. So, the issue of the press, which is under such seige by the current White House, comes down to a matter of personal integrity, or the lack thereof, for every American citizen as much as it is seemingly a political football.
“Telling the truth” isn’t a matter of political slant, it is something that personal conscience governs, or ought to. Most who have entered the hallowed halls of professional journalism – hardly as grandiose as all that, in fact — have done so out of a personal moral commitment to serve mankind by seeking truth. They aspire to do it with the pen, so to speak, just as much as Tennessee Williams did.
In this spirit, we applaud the Washington, D.C.’s amazing Newseum project and its award this year given to The Washington Post’s executive editor Marty Baron, who has led his newspaper’s ongoing gigantic effort to bring truth against power since assuming his latest job in January 2013.
In his remarks upon receiving the award this Monday, Baron urged Newseum students there to their work “because you have something meaningful that motivates you.” He said, “We must know who we are. Missionaries make better products,” adding poignantly, “It is not enough to report competing accounts of the truth, we need to find out the truth for ourselves.”
In this context, he said, “Our values are our soul, together with a strong spine.”
A Newseum official said that membership in the organization has skyrocketed since January, when the current White House called into question the role of the free press on its day one, challenging the media images of the Inauguration, claiming they were “fake news,” and declaring the media “the enemy of the people.”
A famous newspaper owner once said, “Presidents come and go, but we outlive them all, we are here always.” That’s the very nature of the media, and its watchdog role, “without fear or favor of friend or foe,” as the News-Press’ seven-point platform reads.
The world will most likely survive whomever might be in the White House at any given time, and it will do so in large part due to the moral backbone of journalists and other truth tellers committed to the honesty and virtue of their callings.