There is an old saying: “If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you say you are going to be somewhere at a certain time, be there at that time.”
And conversely, “if you say you’re not going to do something, don’t do it.”
Giving your word and keeping it is paramount – even more so – when you are a news reporter. Besides the First Amendment, which obviously is the driving force in all press issues, the press does not have an immediate redress to many roadblocks. Whether it be accessing a crime scene, interviewing an official or gaining access to documents for a story.
They must cajole, plead, demand, cite case-law, or whatever else they can muster at their disposal, but regrettably oftentimes they must accept “No” for an answer right then; until such time that they can revisit the battle, usually through legal avenues and much later. After the story has cooled.
Then there are those that have developed sources through the process of giving their word and keeping their word. Yes, there are those.
And that’s exactly what the press does possess to navigate past the ubiquitous ‘No.” They have their word; giving it and keeping it. There is nothing more important in the news business than saying you will do something and then doing it. Nothing.
I was a reporter, editor, sometimes columnist and even a publisher for more than two decades. That doesn’t mean I was any good at it, I think I would probably give myself the grade of B, if asked. But I did try to adhere to the principal of telling sources what I was going to do and then doing it. Absolutely.
Now, I made mistakes over the years. I sometimes said I would do something when I did not have the authority to say that. Yes, I made mistakes. But I didn’t defend my mistake. I owned up to it. Again, absolutely.
I believe, deep down in my bone marrow, that mistakes are part of the deal. Defending one’s mistakes should not be. That is the killer. And reporters have a difficult job as it is without unnecessary defenses of mistakes. Make no mistake about that.