I first read the Journalist’s Creed as a junior at William Chrisman High School. It wasn’t hanging on our wall in the J-room or recited to us by our teacher, but rather in a random hallway at the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I took note of it and moved on to our weekend of mostly hi-jinx at summer journalism camp.
It was my first professional, full-time job in 1996, though, where the Creed finally came into focus. A few days into my first week at the Blue Springs Examiner, I spotted a framed copy of Dean Williams’ famous words, the credo that would, and should, set the stage for any budding, young journalist.
Writers, reporters, columnists and editors everywhere know the Creed is just a series of words unless we apply it, over and over, day in and day out. That fact is never lost on me. The public trust, respect for our readers, accuracy, fairness and shining a light where others may shy away – all are vital to the pulse of our industry and the responsibility that comes from community journalism.
I believe in the profession of Journalism.
I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.
I believe that clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.
I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true. I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.
I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.
I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.
I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent; unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship, is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.
By Walter Williams (First Dean of the Missouri School of Journalism)
John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lees Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.