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Remarks From Edwin DiamondBy Edwin Diamond
May 5, 1997
A couple of points strike me as we wind up this exercise. First, the three of us represent three generations of political journalists. Sarah says she started in the '30s, I started in the '50s. Paul is a boomer. We are from different regions--Sarah from Texas, I grew up in Chicago, Paul is from Massachusetts Our life experiences are different (the older I get, the more I'm aware how much I've been shaped by my family's travails during the Depression and by my World War II combat service).
Yet, separated as we are by so many factors, I find it revealing that we are in agreement on so many journalistic craft-related things (I will not allow the wildly-inaccurate term "profession" to be used in my presence). we agree that the best journalism is independent, free, counter-intuitive. That journalists should wear no man's (or woman's) collar. I think we also agree with the legend in stone on, I believe, the facade of the National Archives in Washington: What's Past is Prologue. Again, the older I get, the more I'm convinced of the importance of knowing the history of American political journalism. As long as I'm quoting, there's Santayana: those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it (approximate quote).
That's why I'm particularly proud of the course I teach on the "journalistic tradition" at NYU. That's what the books I do try to get behind the surface of events to look at the inner forces--how things work (a very practical American concern.
So let me finish by borrowing from E.M. Forster, who more than a half a century ago gave TWO cheers for Democracy, holding back on the third. I give TWO cheers for American journalism, one in praise of its growing diversity, a second in praise of its more-on-than-off commitment to free inquiry. I hold off on the third cheer, because we are still too smug, too play it safe, too wedded to the conventional wisdom and the approval of our peers.
Paul, you ask for examples of "timidity." Well, ok, in my own files on stories to check out, I'm going to take up on Sarah's tip and "follow the money"--see how foundations and think tanks are conspiring to create a lapdog press. But, umh, do I need a grant to do it?