Responsible journalists are under siege across the U.S. and in nations around the world. This fact doesn’t seem logical, because people want and need the truth.
But dictators and strongmen in power here and elsewhere do not want truthful journalism available to the masses because it undermines their authority and power. Dictators, it seems, can handle anything but the truth.
Brave journalists who are willing to stand up to these despotic characters need our support now more than ever.
Strongmen don’t consider what they legally can do or cannot do. They do as they please, without regard to laws or rights. This is where responsible journalism comes in.
I write this because we just missed a big-time opportunity to show our support for truthful journalism.
A highly respected worldwide organization could have thrown its full support behind working journalists, but for some unknown reason, it chose not to and missed a golden opportunity.
The Nobel Prize for Literature committee could have — and should have — awarded its writing prize this year to a respected journalist. The endorsement could have sent a powerful message.
The irony here is that the committee has shown support for noted journalists in the past, but for some reason chose not to take a stand when it is needed the most.
Journalists like Winston Churchill, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Svetlana Alexievich and others have received the prize for both their journalistic and creative works.
Journalism, whether expressed in editorials, opinion columns or just plain articles, definitely qualifies as literature, because journalism informs and broadens the outlook of its readers just like works of art.
There are bad characters out there today who call responsible journalism “fake news.” We know better. And so should the Nobel committee.
The committee had two opportunities to get it right. It awarded two prizes this year in October, one for 2018 and one for 2019. The committee skipped giving the prize last year because of a sex scandal that involved a few committee members.
The committee wanted to let the air clear before resuming its work. So, for this year the committee awarded two prizes. And, sadly, both were given to obscure central European writers, one of whom is known for his nationalistic views.
In fact, the novelist and playwright Peter Handke of Austria, who got the 2019 prize, possesses and pens right-leaning views that help prop up strongmen in power.
Hard to believe, but Handke delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Slobodan Milosovic, who was tried and convicted of war crimes in Yugoslavia. These crimes included the killing of thousands of innocent people who opposed Milosovic’s nationalistic government.
Handke even admitted he did not deserve the prize. In turn, the literary organization PEN America rebuked choosing him because of his hard-line views.
To top the first prize, the committee then awarded the second prize for 2018 to Olga Tokarczuk of Poland, an obscure writer even in her homeland. Many critics and respected authors have never heard of her or her works.
It was my sincerest wish that a newspaper journalist and columnist, hopefully an American, would be awarded one of the two prizes this year. The award would have sent a strong message to the world that responsible journalism is absolutely crucial for freedom to thrive.
And, most important, responsible journalism is here to stay. In fact, our American founders believed a free press is essential for the survival of our great nation.
The Nobel committee could have upheld the integrity of print journalism at a time when print journalism is under fire and needs and deserves this type of worldwide support.
Around the globe, brave journalists are exposing leaders who use illegal tactics and untruths to promote hate and propaganda. These journalists are putting their lives and the lives of their families and loved ones in danger.
Because of this, these journalists need all the support we can give them to continue their work. With the U.S. now a house divided, our country needs journalists of courage more than ever.
We do not need one-sided journalism that promotes division and hate, but balanced journalism that covers all aspects of every situation, good and bad.
With this in mind, it is unfortunate that the Nobel literature committee chose not to throw its prestige behind writers of truth who somehow find the will and the strength to get up each day and to keep going.
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.