SOURCE: Society of Professional Journalists

October 05, 2007 20:21 ET

USA Today Editor Says Journalists Must Teach Public About the Duty of the Press

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - October 5, 2007) - "That's the press, baby. And there's nothing you can do about it."

In the 1950s movie, "Deadline, U.S.A.," Humphrey Bogart's journalist character spoke these words when refusing to allow the mafia to intimidate him into backing away from the truth. Today's journalists, says USA Today editor Ken Paulson, must be equally courageous and tenacious in their reporting.

Paulson, and a bevy of high-profile media guests, spoke to a standing-room only crowd Friday during the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference.

"We were portrayed as the good guys in the 1950s, 60s and 70s," Paulson said, citing heroes such as Superman, Spider-Man and the Green Hornet.

But today is a different story. Polls show that the public often sees journalists as a slimy lot with little ethics.

Paulson says perception is not always reality, and it's time for journalists to take a stand on behalf of their profession. Journalists must do a better job of teaching citizens how journalists go about their job, and the importance of the press.

"When we do our job the right way... we fulfill our promise to the first generation of Americans that believed a key to democracy is a free and independent press," Paulson said. "We have to do a better job of explaining to the American people what we do... that we are on their side."

Paulson's guests included life-long journalist John Seigenthaler Sr.; "Balco Boys," Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada; Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center; and Eve Burton, general counsel for Hearst Newspapers.

Paulson's presentation will soon be available to all SPJ members at www.spj.org.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. SPJ includes more than 9,000 members from all areas of journalism. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.

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