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David Westin: “Doing Great Journalism is Not the Same as Entering a Popularity Contest”

Westin_10.14.jpgTVNewser has obtained the remarks ABC News president David Westin made the other night as he accepted the Murrow award for best overall News Division. It’s an interesting read in which Westin acknowledges the seemingly endless criticism that is heaped on the news media, and where that criticism often comes from:

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t read or hear someone taking us to task for not covering a story or for covering it too much or for the way that we cover it. And, let’s be honest, sometimes the critics are right. None of us is perfect, and we as journalists must always use valuable criticism as a tool to help us do better.

But all too often, the criticism comes from those who haven’t taken the time to understand or, worse, who have their own agenda. And so, in the end, we have to hold ourselves to our own standards

Westin also talked about “the greatest reward” a journalist can receive…it’s after the jump.


DRAFT/DLW
October 13, 2008

Remarks for RTNDA

On behalf of all of my colleagues at ABC News whose work is represented in this award, thank you. It’s deeply gratifying to be recognized at a dinner such as this with an award named after Edward R. Murrow and in front of so many respected colleagues and competitors. And I thank the RTNDA for giving ABC News this honor.

But as I look out at the audience tonight, I’m struck that — as proud we are of the work we all do and as nice as it is to receive and give congratulations — there is something much more important. When we are doing our best work, it’s really not about us at all. It’s about the people and their stories we cover.

It’s about the poor, single mother in Camden New Jersey sending her son to school without breakfast because she can’t afford food.

It’s about the soldiers and marines coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries and not receiving the care they need and deserve.

It’s about the people of Myanmar suffering under a secretive and repressive regime.

It’s about a young man so troubled that he would slaughter his classmates in a college in southwestern Virginia.

And, it’s about the journey of so many women today fighting breast cancer.

In a year when we’re electing a president who — whether Republican or Democratic — will be called upon to face historic challenges and a year when we are facing the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, we are at the same time privileged and humbled to be covering the news — not because we are important, but because our mission is.

And, as much as we value praise and recognition, it is ironic that often our best work comes in the face of criticism and even derision. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t read or hear someone taking us to task for not covering a story or for covering it too much or for the way that we cover it. And, let’s be honest, sometimes the critics are right. None of us is perfect, and we as journalists must always use valuable criticism as a tool to help us do better.

But all too often, the criticism comes from those who haven’t taken the time to understand or, worse, who have their own agenda. And so, in the end, we have to hold ourselves to our own standards. Are we reporting a story that the people don’t know but that they should? Are we helping people understand their world and their lives a little bit better and thereby helping them deal with what’s important to them?

If we are, then we have done our work, whatever the praise or condemnation. Doing great journalism is not the same as entering a popularity contest; often, it’s just the opposite. In the end, the greatest reward we can receive is simply to be given the opportunity to do our work.

But perhaps because doing real journalism can be so difficult, evenings and awards like this mean all the more. Thanks once again.

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