My Point of View: Journalists are essential to freedom and human rights

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

I bought a copy of Eric Sevareid’s memoir “Not So Wild A Dream” (1946) a few years ago on a whim because the welcome sign to my mother’s small North Dakota hometown used to proclaim, “Home of Eric Sevareid.”

Back in the 1980s it was a random name to me, and I took my mother’s word that Sevareid was a former CBS reporter who cut his teeth as a correspondent during World War II. At the time I couldn’t Google this luminary from a lignite town to learn more.

Email newsletter signup

Recently I pulled the book down as I was gathering books on Norway to lend to a friend. (On my loosely organized shelves, it’s in the Scandinavia section because Sevareid was Norwegian-American — his parents met at Luther College.) I flipped it open briefly and noticed that the title is based on a line in Norman Corwin’s “On a Note of Triumph” radio broadcast celebrating Victory in Europe Day, which Sevareid included as an inscription:

“Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream as those who profit by postponing it pretend.”

Those words struck me, so I looked up Norman Corwin and learned he was a giant of early radio dramas. The line Sevareid quoted is part of a prayer Corwin read during the broadcast:

“Lord God of test-tube and blueprint

Who jointed molecules of dust and shook them till

their name was Adam,

Who taught worms and stars how they could live together,

Appear now among the parliaments of conquerors

and give instruction to their schemes:

Measure out new liberties so none shall suffer

for his father’s color or the credo of his choice:

Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream as

those who profit by postponing it pretend:

Sit at the treaty table and convoy the hopes of the little

peoples through expected straits,

And press into the final seal a sign that peace will

come for longer than posterities can see ahead,

That man unto his fellow man shall be a friend forever.”

In a similar spirit, the newly-formed United Nations adopted the Declaration of Universal Human Rights three years later.

After vividly describing the last Allied mortars concussing the banks of the Rhein, Sevareid himself observed, “For if I had learned anything, I had learned the great and obvious fact that the decisive desire of men is not for peace, however deep their longing, but for life in dignity, the sense of which burns, however feebly, in every man, however humble his status or obscure his place upon the earth.

“If men desired peace above all else, the Spaniards would have accepted Franco without a struggle, the free men of Europe would not have resisted Hitler, who had a formula for peace and came near to realizing it, the Chinese would not have suffered their long and bitter martyrdom, and my own countrymen would have stayed in the homes which they so thoroughly believe are the choicest on this earth.”

Sevareid explicitly foresaw the coming clash between the free world and communism in the closing chapter of his book, but his words also portended the long struggle for civil rights that was about to come to another head in the U.S.

People desire freedom and human rights, and they must join forces and sacrifice greatly to attain it. It is often a long, uncertain and costly struggle against people who are the beneficiaries of systems that maintain unequal rights and oppression.

This struggle for dignity has always been supported by good, courageous journalism.

In observance of International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, the International Federation of Journalists reported that 67 journalists have been killed this year, the most in Ukraine (12) and Mexico (11). In February, U.S. crime reporter Jeff German was murdered in Las Vegas, apparently in connection with a public official he was investigating.

Locally-produced journalism continues to be under attack as well. Gannett, a media conglomerate that owns over 200 newspapers, just reduced the St. Cloud Times newsroom to three reporters for a metro area of 200,000 people. That’s absurd.

Taking out community watchdogs is a dramatic blow against clean, representative government. Consolidation in radio station ownership has produced similar results in local reporting. For rural areas, the impacts are even worse as these sources dwindle. It’s a loss of valuable, locally-based information. Loss of newspapers is a loss of community record.If you’re reading this, you’re probably already supporting local journalism. Thank you, and please encourage others to do so as well. It’s a vital way to pull together and strengthen our community. Outside owners don’t care about it beyond their profits.

Journalists are essential to freedom and human rights. Journalism is a noble profession.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.