Journalism

A Pen and a Sword

The pen, they say, is mightier than the sword. As with the sword, the pen may be used to hurt or to heal, to build up or to tear down, or simply to record an account of the day's events. For much of my life I have worked with the pen. My name is Randy Reddick, and I am the Journalism Department Chairman in the College of Mass Communications at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

The form of journalism in which I have come to believe is a form rooted in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the social contract implied by that amendment.

When the framers of the Bill of Rights – and the citizens who ratified that bill in 1791 – subscribed to the notion that government "shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" they granted to the press a special status. The enjoyment of special social-political status carries with it special social-political obligation.

Two twentieth century declarations spell out those obligations.

In 1947, the Committee on a Free and Responsible Press, chaired by University of Chicago President Robert Hutchins, declared, "Freedom of the press is freighted with the responsibility of providing the current intelligence needed by a free society …" The press must, therefore, provide "A truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s events in a context which gives them meaning."

Forty-one years later, Times Mirror Company President Robert Erburu, in his annual letter to shareholders, wrote "The Times Mirror Company is committed to gathering and disseminating the information that people need to live, work and govern themselves in a free society. We will strive to do so with the highest standards of accuracy, fairness, quality and timeliness."

Guided by the principles expressed in these two statements, our vision of journalism and news media are that they are commissioned by our society to play a crucial role in the process of self governance. That role carries obligations to provide truthful, fair, accurate and timely accounts of the day's efents "in a context which gives them meaning."

Randy Reddick

Randy Reddick

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