Sarah Stultz: Trust in newspapers to give readers truth

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Albert Lea Tribune.

I have had many thoughts coming out of last week’s general election. The results of the election aside, I have been thinking about what role the media has played and what role it continues to play in our society.

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These thoughts were addressed at an event I attended last week with a co-worker at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis with four Minnesota-based Pulitzer Prize winners. The event was set up as part of the 100th anniversary of the Pulitizer Prize, and it explored journalism’s role in an era of disbelief.

First off, let me say how impressed I was with these four people. It has been a lifelong goal of mine to win a Pulitzer Prize, so it was inspiring to simply be in the same room with them.

One had won her prize because of overseas work she did for the Associated Press, two won for stories they completed in Minnesota and the fourth won for his powerful editorial cartoons. 

All came from larger news organizations and were able to dedicate numerous hours over several months to their projects.

After they discussed their prize-winning projects, they began to talk about issues related to journalism more as a whole, including what has been on my mind lately.

Is trust busted?

That was the name of the event itself, and it looked at the public’s trust in mass media.

Media has broadened over the years and sometimes now when people refer to media, they are not only talking about newspapers and television news, but also news commentary and other things they find on the internet.

While I don’t want to discourage people from reading many different types of information, I ask that people carefully consider their source, if there is an agenda behind that source and how and where the information was obtained.

It is easy to open up Facebook and find stories from sources that aren’t credible. Just a few weeks back, I saw a story that a celebrity had died. Upon a little further investigation, I discovered it was a hoax, though it was presented as legitimate news.

Again, what was the source?

As we move forward past this election cycle, I hope that people take a closer look at where they get their information. Find reliable sources.

I have always believed — and I still believe — that journalists have a powerful opportunity to enlighten, to teach and to ultimately help solve some of the world’s largest questions. Please trust us to do our jobs.

I leave you with a quote that Joseph Pulitzer himself stated in 1904:

“Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve the public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mold the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”