We should keep in mind that although newspapers are no longer the dominant conveyor belt of information in our culture, they are still major shapers of our culture and of government policy agendas. The best papers still care about quality and ethics in their own shops, even though, with a few exceptions, they have always opposed the periodically raised notion of having the press monitored by an independent outside body. I agree that an outside monitor is not the ideal course. But if we're going to reject that option, doesn't the obligation then fall on us to do it ourselves, from the inside—that is, oversee ourselves through strong, regular coverage?

The gut decision that journalists have to make is whether they want to be regarded as professionals with honor or merely as pickup teams of scribblers and windbags. Put another way, we must ask ourselves if we are comfortable doing some of the things reporters are being asked to do in the present climate—such as investigating the sex lives of public figures, even when those sex lives have no demonstrable effect on the execution of their duties or on public policy. By the way, why don't we call those new assignments by their right name—the sex beat? And while we're at it, if it's okay to have a sex beat, why are we so resistant to a press beat?

Return to Sydney H. Schanberg's Fear and Favor at 'The New York Times': Reviving the Good Gray Lady"

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