Now for the first time, I really feel it. I can touch it. It’s happening all around.
The death of a competent, successful free press. The spiral downward for newspapers and TV news.
We are going down and going down fast.
It’s a combination: the smartphone, our own mistakes playing into our critics’ hands and, of course, the campaign against the press waged by our president.
I expect it to last four long years.
The very fake news. Dishonest reporters who make things up #EnemyOfTheAmericanPeople. Say it over and over and everyone starts to believe it.
What do we do about it? I offer a four-point plan:
For starters, we have to do our jobs, be aggressive, check things out and practice a great craft of journalism. We can’t be cowed.
Second, we can’t make the kind of stupid mistakes that make us look bad. We can’t — as that New York Times reporter recently did — call the First Lady a horrible name in a private conversation and not expect that to be shared. Come on.
Third, we must make our case in a stronger way. Give our side an “F” in making the case. Citing the First Amendment isn’t good enough. Show, not tell, how we make a positive difference in people’s lives. Say it again and again and again, the way Trump does.
Finally, the mission of this organization has never been more important. What started as a drinking club by a bunch of male columnists has now evolved into a legacy organization that stands for the strongest journalistic values.
Unlike other journo groups, we haven’t merged or changed our name. We represent honesty and fairness, and that’s our saving grace.
If you haven’t read our Code of Conduct lately, here it is:
“As a newspaper columnist, I will strive to inform, educate and entertain my readers. I will work hard to provoke them to think – whether they agree or disagree with my efforts to depict truth as I see it.
“I will offer my opinions and the reasons I hold them as clearly and as fairly as I can. I will never take advantage of my position to achieve unwarranted personal gain not available to others or use my column to settle personal scores. I will disclose potential conflicts to readers whenever possible.
“I will never make up a quote, a source or a story when depicting true events. But I will reserve the right to engage in parody and satire.
“I will work hard to earn and keep the trust my readers and editors place in me. I will never plagiarize. Whenever possible, when I make a mistake, I will correct it.
“I will listen to my critics and, in person, treat them with dignity and respect because they pay me the high honor of reading me, even if they disagree. Similarly, I will treat with personal courtesy those whom I may criticize in writing before and after writing about them.
“I will always remember that my job is a privilege and honor because being a columnist represents the basic American rights of free speech and open discussion.”