Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just the Facts

"The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely."

Bob Herbert
New York Times

In case you haven't heard, Bob Herbert is leaving the New York Times.

His last column was published/posted on Friday. He says he plans "to write a book and expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling in our society."

I'm sorry to see him go — but, if he can find a platform through which he can reach more people than he could as a columnist for the New York Times, all I can do is wish him godspeed.

Over the years, I have developed a great deal of respect for Herbert. I haven't always been able to read his stuff — and, with the Times apparently on the brink of returning to its unsuccessful pay–for–access policy, I probably wouldn't be able to read it in the future, either (although, I must confess, I don't know if everything will be restricted this time — or only selected content), so perhaps it is just as well that he no longer be on the staff.

I don't know if the "efforts" of which he speaks will include observations from a blog or a web site that I can access freely — but I hope they will because, if they do not, I will miss his insights.

He is one of the few writers out there who does not get carried away with emotion and still depends on facts to support his statements. I don't always agree with him, but at least he appeals to your head as well as your heart.

How times have changed. When I was in journalism school, it was presumed that, whether you were a newsgathering reporter or a columnist, you could support anything you wrote with facts.

If you could not, you simply weren't doing your job.

Speaking of journalism school, I recall having a professor during my undergraduate days who encouraged us to take the "Joe Friday approach" to writing about the news.

In my mind's eye, I can see him in the front of the classroom, reminding us of the catchphrase from the old Dragnet TV show and Sgt. Friday's gentle prodding to witnesses who got sidetracked: "Just the facts, ma'am."

I hope Herbert continues to give us the facts, whatever his platform may be.

No comments: