BY TONY BOUZA
There is no doubt in my mind that the most vital institution in America is a free press.
And the responsibility of the Fourth Estate?
Dig for and report the truth.
I tried hard to lead my life as a public servant in service to that principle.
A friend recently died and I was one of many to be called for his obituary. An obituary is a biographical sketch of a person’s life. A eulogy is praise for one’s life. A subtle but meaningful difference.
The friend—whom I won’t name—led a really distinguished life of service and achievement.
’Nuff said—the Trib covered that well.
He was, for most of his life, a religious man, but died a committed atheist. Three responsible sources told the Trib obituarist (a neologism?) this, citing one of the principal comments the deceased repeatedly made in his summary days.
Was this newsworthy or not?
The answer lies in answering the question—will the reader care? Is it something she should know in reading the summation of the life?
Gloria Vanderbilt died the other day, and, hoping to learn some contemporary history, I read her obit in The Times. I learned—in addition to her family history and many achievements—of the men she’d slept with (described as “romantically linked to” in the code of the day), as well as her horrific witnessing of her son’s suicide. I read it in expectation of revelations and The Times did not fail me.
Faith requires us to believe that for which there is no evidence. When detectives gave me half-baked theories or superstitions about cases I asked about, my answer always was, “Where’s the evidence?” Goebbels knew all about exploiting gullibility. The height of intellectuality reposits in profound gullibility. Criminal geniuses like the Nazi propagandist knew this.
When I read The Times I don’t expect them to spare anyone. Our contract is that they report the full truth and I pay them by buying it. A simple contract but one for which many, many lives have been sacrificed. Thankfully, not here.
When a newspaper protects one sensibility of subjects it writes about, it betrays its readers. Just as simple as that.
I’m certain that in this land of “nice,” my words will sound harsh, judgmental and discourteous. That is precisely what they are.
So, we don’t need to know how the man died an atheist, after a life of pretty religious devotion. We don’t need to know whom Ms. Vanderbilt slept with. We don’t need to know a lot of things, right? Wrong!
Suppressing the truth in any form means the suppressor is judging what truths I can receive and which I must be sheltered from. In the end we are left with, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
How come the users of that phrase worked so hard to conceal the scandals of the Catholic Church? But history is replete with such things, denials, opposition and condemnations of the victims. We have a President who has only contempt for the truth.
Our only real weapon is a demand for the simple truth.
The world is such that charlatans, pederasts, bums and criminals suppress and mangle the truth and all too often we are silent accomplices in the crime.
Now you know why I read The New York Times every day and not the Tribune. The Times, read every day by this country’s leaders, is the most important institution in the land, and they earn this standing every single day.