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'We need more than a soul. We also need a spine' - editor

The annual Reuters memorial lecture was delivered this year by Marty Baron (photo) executive editor of The Washington Post, on the subject of covering the Trump administration.

The title of his talk on Friday at the University of Oxford, sponsored by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism which arranges the annual lecture, was “When a president wages war on a press at work.”

Excerpts included the following:

  • ”Statistics about Trump’s tweets capture the unrelenting nature of the assault: Since he declared his candidacy in 2015, he has posted more than 1,000 tweets critical of the press. From December of 2016 to December 2017, Trump tweeted about ‘fake news’ over 150 times.”
  • ”We must recognise… something profound has changed in our profession. Journalism may not work as it did in the past. Our work’s anticipated impact may not materialise. The public may not process information as it did previously.” 
  • ”Amid an unrelenting assault from the most powerful person on earth, the answer for us is clear: Just do our job. Do it honestly, honourably, seriously, fairly, accurately, and also unflinchingly… we need more than a soul. We also need a spine. And I’m pleased to report, we have that too.”
  • “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticise power, because there is no basis upon which to do so.”
  • “The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth may be ascertained.”