What is Journalism?

It has been announced that the writer of bleak beauty has received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism. Previous recipients include Christiane Amanapour, Tom Brokaw, Walter Chronkite and Winston Churchill. When the award prompted thoughts of making a speech entitled “What is Journalism?” the recipient was told he had only two or three minutes to speak. That led to a search for a short definition of journalism. When this provided impossible the author decided to focus on “What is not journalism”, perhaps hoping to describe the malaise of our media sodden times. The author then discovered that the category he had received his award in was neither photo-journalist nor filmmaker but Media Leader! All of this excitement helped focus our awards speech, for in this time of constant verbal and visual bombardment, is there a guiding light that might lead us all through the darkness and corruption of our chosen field?

Years ago sitting in Professor Oost’s Ancient History class at the University of Chicago, the Professor lectured on another troubled time and place; the Roman Empire. By the First Century, Rome seethed with power, moral uncertainty, and corruption. That world had been forming for years, having already inherited and then conquered the world of the Greeks. Rome now encompassed the entire world, and was by definition civilization itself. At that moment Jesus Christ was arrested and brought before Pontius Pilate the Roman Prefect of the backwater province, Judaea.

Pontius asked his prisoner “What is the truth?” Then Professor Oost looked down at we
young students and held out his his arms. “That was the question the whole Roman world was asking.”

And then he said, “Jesus answered, “I am the truth.””

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