At this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein described their reporting and methodology on Watergate as “the best obtainable version of the truth.” And most importantly, the effort to obtain that truth is largely made in good faith.
Context and nuance, human connections and establishing relationships of trust are some of the stock and trade of the journalist, according to these granddaddies of journalism.
They were pushing back at President Donald Trump’s labeling mainstream media as “fake news.”
I’ve never been part of the White House press pool, but I’ve interviewed senators, congressional representatives, state and county officials, mayors, candidates of all stripes, and sat through more city council and government meetings, court proceedings and trials than I care to remember.
That’s part of being a reporter for 40 years at The Press Democrat.
Even though The Press Democrat was owned by the New York Times Co. for 26 years, it’s not the big leagues of journalism. But the fundamentals are the same — finding news, getting the facts straight, writing under deadline pressure with limited space and using language efficiently.
My looming retirement gave me a chance to reflect on a career working for a newspaper that traces its beginnings to 1857 and has been doing a lot of things right over the years.
Projects from the Golden Gate Bridge to Warm Springs Dam, Highway 101 widening and the SMART train all enjoyed critical editorial support from The Press Democrat.
The paper has won plenty of awards, including a 1997 Pulitzer Prize for a photo taken by staff photographer Annie Wells.
Pick up a Press Democrat on any given day and you’ll get a good sense of current events, whether local, statewide, national or abroad, along with a dose of opinion and analysis. Don’t forget sports and entertainment.
But along with the positive comments I hear from readers about how well the newspaper stacks up compared to others, it isn’t uncommon to hear someone talk about the shrinking size of the paper, especially the Monday edition.
As with so many publications, The Press Democrat has been challenged by the internet and a new digital media landscape as the days of print fade away.
But local journalism remains critically important and vital no matter how it’s delivered. It’s a community forum providing continuity and illuminating history. It tells the stories — big and the small.
From earthquakes to floods, fires, protest demonstrations and the daily mayhem of traffic accidents, crime and other breaking news — I’ve had my fill covering them.
The variety has made the time fly.
What other job provides the opportunity to interview a former secretary of state one day and then do a story on a man who walked backwards across the country during the Depression?
I interviewed Plennie Wingo at the ripe age of 81 when he was reviving his career with a backwards walk almost the length of California. My turn with Henry Kissinger came with a brief phone interview before the first Gulf War.
As a reporter, I’ve interviewed movie stars, athletes and priests, as well as con men, strippers, outlaw motorcyclists and at least one murderer. I’ve watched autopsies, reviewed concerts and plays.