We ask our fellow citizens to entrust us with a valuable role in society— providers of an objective and clear rendering of the news.
We often do this for low pay, long workdays and scant appreciation.
But our work is priceless.
Consider this: On August 6, 1995, a television producer invited a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, Kazuo Yoshikawa of Tustin, California, to be an in-studio guest at a live half-hour segment on the 50th anniversary of the world’s first use of a nuclear weapon in warfare.
The 65-year-old survivor’s command of English was a bit halting, so the producer asked him if he would come in a half hour early so the producer could go over the show’s format and general line of questioning.
You don’t want a live in-studio guest to ask for questions to be repeated because he or she cannot understand them.
Yoshikawa agreed and presented himself promptly at the appointed time.
The producer reviewed the basic questions that would be asked, and was satisfied that the quiet, refined and distinguished-looking man would be able to handle the interview.
But the producer had one more question:
“I don’t understand,” he told the Hiroshima survivor. “In the months before the dropping of the nuclear explosive, American forces had invaded Okinawa, captured Iwo Jima, and charred Tokyo with firebombs. Didn’t the Japanese people realize they were defeated? Why did they not pressure their leaders to surrender, thus avoiding the two atomic attacks?”
The old man considered the question for a moment. “Many of us suspected we were not doing well,” Yoshikawa said. “Too many airmen, sailors, and soldiers were not returning and teenagers such as me were pressed into service working in factories.”
Every journalist, and everyone who cherishes a free society, should remember what this man who had glimpsed into hell said next: “But our radio and newspapers told us we were winning.”
I was that producer and I’ll remember Yoshokawa’s words forever. They permanently seared the worth of objective journalism in my mind—imagine how different things might have been on August 6, 1945, if Japan’s news media had told the truth.
--Excerpted from Reporting and Writing on Journalism’s New Frontier by Jeff Rowe. Coming Fall, 2015 by University Press/Cognella