Recent Examples of Exceptional Journalism

Our nation, including the president [1], has landed on its latest fixation: fake news.  We are now fearing that this deception played an important role in the recent election.  Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg promises to address the issue on his website [2].  In this environment, I feel that it’s important to remember that there are many recent cases of truly exceptional journalism.

The PBS Newshour [3] and Washington Week [4] on PBS have long been reliable sources of objective unemotional factual reporting.  In particular, Gwen Ifil has been a consistently credible journalist [5].  She previously moderated two vice presidential debates; in 2004 she challenged the candidates with the forgotten fact that people were dying from AIDS [6]:

I want to talk to you about AIDS — and not about AIDS in China or Africa — but AIDS right here in this country.  Black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts. What should the government’s role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?

Most recently, she moderated a Democratic primary presidential debate while battling cancer [7].  She kept working until just a week before her death [7].  I myself have been a consistent viewer of Gwen Ifil on both programs for several years where I have been educated on many issues not commonly reported; I miss her.  I am grateful that her colleagues (Hari Sreenivasan, Judy Woodruff, and others) have continued her objective factual reporting.

Jeremy Scahill has demonstrated a clear objective to report truth at the risk of his own peril.  In the documentary “Dirty Wars,” a film he made without any funding [8], he went behind the “green zone” to report the truth.  In Afghanistan, every morning the Pentagon reports figures on the actions taken through the night; in particular, the Pentagon reports the number of terrorists that were killed.  Scahill went out of the protected zone to investigate one of these reports.  He found that the terrorists were actually a family celebrating a new birth.  US soldiers shot the mother in the stomach; she bled while her family watched.  The soldiers had been given instructions not to leave any evidence, so they entered the home and dug their bullet out of the woman with a knife while she was still alive.  Three pregnant women were killed during this raid.  The Pentagon, which initially denied these facts, later confirmed them stating that they had operated on bad intelligence [9].

In the same documentary, Scahill reports on how the US killed a suspected Muslim terrorist who was also a US citizen without a trial using a missile launched from a drone; a short while later, the US also killed his 16 year old son (also a US citizen) without a trial.  Recently, Scahill (now a founder of and reporter for has called on president Obama to release evidence that Russia hacked the communications of US politicians in order to affect our presidential election; so far, little evidence has been presented [10].

Barton Gellman, Glen Greenwald, Ewen Macaskill, and Laura Poitras did an exceptional job of reporting on the Snowden revelations [11].  Initially, they provided almost daily updates of new relevant information.  After James Clapper told us that the NSA was not using its technology to eavesdrop on the communications of Americans, these reporters showed that they were [12].  When president Obama admitted that the NSA did indeed have technology that was being used to eavesdrop on and surveil almost all American citizens, but that the technology wasn’t getting abused, we were informed that intelligence operatives were using that information to spy on their love interests [13].  We were shown that, with the consent of the Obama administration and the British parliament, the NSA and GCHQ were recording our communications and movements.  The British government eventually forced The Guardian (the newspaper that Macaskill was working for) to destroy all records of the Snowden revelations [16].  In spite of this, their reporting continues.  In 2014, Greenwald showed us that Obama’s reforms of the NSA surveillance infrastructure were a token change [17].  In 2015, Poitras won an academy award for her documentary “Citizenfour.”  Barton Gellman is releasing a book this year with new revelations from the Snowden documents [18].  And in November of this year, Greenwald questioned the credibility of journalists who would be willing to meet with president-elect Trump in an “off-the-record” meeting:

Whether or not it actually is collusion, whether or not it actually is subservient ring-kissing in exchange for access, it certainly appears to be that.

Finally, Julian Assange has been an exceptional journalist.  Wikileaks has revealed corruptions in countries throughout the world including Kenya, England, Germany, Brazil, and the U.S.  Assange, himself, remains focused on his goal of revealing corruption in spite of his imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy in England.  Unsurprisingly, in spite of our politician’s stated desire for transparency and truth, they consider Assange an enemy for accomplishing exactly that.

I’m sure there are many other exceptional journalists; these are the ones I’m familiar with.  (If you’re familiar with others, please do note them in the comments.)  In spite of these exceptional sources, we are once again listening to the pundits.  Wolf Blitzer on CNN and Sean Hannity on Fox News are still capturing our attention.  As we concern ourselves with the prevalence of “fake news,” it’s important to remember that there are excellent news sources available to us.  The problem is not an absence of “true news”.  Rather, the problem is where we (the public) have decided to focus our attention.



























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