Lessons from McEntyre–How a Journalist Respects Authority

Photo Courtesy of Jason
Photo Courtesy of Jason

Within her book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, Marilyn McEntyre emphasizes the importance of preserving truth in our words, listing the vital questions that beg us to consider our role in this quest for truth. The question that stood out to me was, “How do I accredit or challenge authority?”

As a journalist, I am told to write objectively. I must never show my own opinions, except when I write for Opinion articles, and I can only introduce opinions when they belong to my interviewees, such as, “He said,” or “She said.” In this manner, I accredit authority by giving respect due to whom it is due, but I dare not challenge authority at this stage in my career, because I do not wish to lose rapport with the people I report or with my future employers.

When McEntyre says, “challenge authority,” I do not think she would condone blatant criticism but rather careful strategies to convey truth in our words. I can be safe by saying, “A murder occurred at 11:00 p.m. on Baker Street,” and adding, “Police say resident was found guilty,” without ever showing my own opinion, because in this way, I am accrediting authority to the police rather than touting my own.

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