- - Sunday, July 9, 2017


Has journalism lost its North Star? It certainly seemed so when, in late 2016, The New York Times‘ publisher had to write to readers vowing to rededicate the paper to reporting “America and the world honestly, without fear or favor.” This, Sharyl Attkisson’s new book about shady political operatives and fake news, and polls revealing public distrust of media all call for long-overdue media reform (“New book: Sharyl Attkisson reveals the ghastly world of political smears, fake news,” Web, July 4).

A model for reform could be the late A.M. Rosenthal, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning foreign correspondent, and executive editor of The New York Times from 1970 to 1986. As told by Robert D. McFadden a few years ago, Mr. Rosenthal was “tigerish” in defense of high standards of reporting and editing, and called for fairness, objectivity and good taste in news columns. He required them to be free of editorial comment, causes, political agenda, innuendo and unattributed, pejorative quotations. He was known for his discipline of reporters and strong use of the blue pencil of editing.

In those days reporters had a watchdog role. They were wary of advertisers and the publisher, and never used the first person in a story.

Nowadays the business side and politics wield too much influence. It is time for Sgt. Joe Friday’s misattributed catchphrase, “Just the facts, ma’am”, in news reporting. Leave the slants for editorial pages.


Lake Ridge, Va.

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