OPINION

OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: A prize worth earning


Each year since 1917, journalists, photographers and authors of literature have competed in various categories for a highly regarded Pulitzer Prize, administered by Columbia University, which in most categories includes a $15,000 award.

Now, thanks to the recently retired publisher of this newspaper, news reporters nationwide will have the opportunity to compete for four national prizes totaling a whopping $100,000 that honor honest, fair and objective reporting that demonstrates integrity rather than personal and political agendas.

How refreshing and long, long overdue.

Concerned over the unfortunate and obvious demise of fair and impartial news reporting in various media during recent years, Walter E. Hussman Jr. has established the Center for Integrity in News Reporting. The center will annually $25,000 each to individual reporters in print, broadcast, cable television and digital media.

Partisan and activist news reporters and editors with axes to grind and political friends to protect and favor with slanted language and omissions will be wasting their time if they apply for this lucrative honor.

I'm one of many who favors finally honoring unbiased news reporting rather than what's become blended with calculated concoctions of opinion. It's long past time to honor those in this craft who still practice honest-to-goodness, meaningful news-gathering.

After investing more than 50 history-making years in his family's four-generation publishing business, I'm particularly proud of Hussman for being the only publisher or news organization to invest such considerable resources behind the belief in objective journalism he's firmly held throughout his career, as did his grandfather and newspaper publisher C.E. Palmer and publisher father Walter Hussman Sr.

There are solid reasons why Editor and Publisher named Hussman its Publisher of the Year in 2008, among other national honors and top positions he has received for outstanding newspaper leadership.

The requirement for winning the new prize is derived in principle from the beliefs of the late New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs who vowed more than a century ago "To give the news impartially, without fear or favor."

The contest description says the awards will go to "the most fair, impartial, objective news reporting that has the courage to not fear and the discipline to not favor." The Newspaper Association Managers organization will judge entries.

This fundamental message, along with Hussman's father's beliefs about putting the reader ahead of any other aspect of publishing, is also is printed daily on the second page of our paper under the headline, "Statement of Core Values." You've likely read it. If not, I encourage you to.

In an Editor and Publisher story about the new awards, Hussman said he began publishing his commitment to those values in each edition because of his concern over the loss of public trust in news reporting, citing a Gallup Poll done in 2017 with the Knight Foundation that surveyed 20,000 people in 50 states. The poll found lack of trust in journalism had all but bottomed out.

Gallup's most recent of these polls showed confidence in newspapers has dwindled to a record low of 16 percent.

Pathetic, isn't it? But we all can see why, when the term "fake news" has become such a familiar refrain among the people and why many once-robust papers today are suffering and dying.Who wants to pay for propaganda?

"Our family thinks a center to explain the virtues of impartiality, fairness and objectivity in news reporting is greatly needed," Hussman told Editor and Publisher magazine Publisher Mike Blinder on Blinder's vodcast. "Hence, this is our reason to trademark the name 'Center for Integrity in News Reporting.' And we decided the first thing to do is reward the best examples of that in news reporting across all news media, print, broadcast, cable television, and digital."

I have a feeling this new $25,000 prize will help at least some news directors, publishers, editors, producers and reporters realize building vital credibility in themselves and their product is the only possible path toward restoring public trust in what they offer. And can only be earned through recognizable integrity and objectivity in their product. What an honor to receive for any true journalist.

I learned early in my career that without establishing credibility, any journalist and his or her media organization is eventually doomed.

Proud of you, Walter Hussman Jr., for supporting the noble and necessary cause of honesty and integrity in our craft. We've never needed it more.

Five-second rule

I've always mistakenly believed in the five-second rule when something I was eating accidentally dropped to the floor. If I could get to it within five seconds, it still was edible without health consequences.

That changed the other day when I learned, courtesy of a Consumer Reports flyer, that this is a persistent myth that could actually prove harmful to our health. It seems the transfer of potentially harmful bacteria onto spilled food can occur almost immediately.

If the food can be washed or peeled, take a moment and wash or peel dropped food before putting it in our mouths. Otherwise, don't eat it.

Just imagine all we think we know, but really don't. I had to wait until age 77 to learn this fact. Now all my valued readers know. Aren't newspapers great?

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].


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