By Sylvia Gurinsky
By now, most of us have laughed at the funny parts of President Barack Obama's speech at the White House Correspondents Association dinner last week.
But Obama got very serious at the end, with words illustrating that he understands that the only profession protected in the United States Constitution is in trouble, and that he also understands what a free and active press means to this country. Here's the excerpt:
"...we meet tonight at a moment of extraordinary challenge for this nation and for the world, but it's also a time of real hardship for the field of journalism. And like so many other businesses in this global age, you've seen sweeping changes and technology and communications that lead to a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about what the future will hold. Across the country, there are extraordinary, hardworking journalists who have lost their jobs in recent days, recent weeks, recent months. And I know that each newspaper and media outlet is wrestling with how to respond to these changes, and some are struggling simply to stay open. And it won't be easy. Not every ending will be a happy one. But it's also true that your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy. It's what makes this thing work.
You know, Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had the choice between a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter. Clearly, Thomas Jefferson never had cable news to contend with -- (laughter) -- but his central point remains: A government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts, is not an option for the United States of America. (Applause.)
So I may not -- I may not agree with everything you write or report. I may even complain, or more likely [Press Secretary Robert] Gibbs will complain, from time to time about how you do your jobs, but I do so with the knowledge that when you are at your best, then you help me be at my best. You help all of us who serve at the pleasure of the American people do our jobs better by holding us accountable, by demanding honesty, by preventing us from taking shortcuts and falling into easy political games that people are so desperately weary of. And that kind of reporting is worth preserving -- not just for your sake, but for the public's.
We count on you to help us make sense of a complex world and tell the stories of our lives the way they happen, and we look for you for truth, even if it's always an approximation, even if -- (laughter.)This is a season of renewal and reinvention. That is what government must learn to do, that's what businesses must learn to do, and that's what journalism is in the process of doing. And when I look out at this room and think about the dedicated men and women whose questions I've answered over the last few years, I know that for all the challenges this industry faces, it's not short on talent or creativity or passion or commitment. It's not short of young people who are eager to break news or the not-so-young who still manage to ask the tough ones time and time again. These qualities alone will not solve all your problems, but they certainly prove that the problems are worth solving. And that is a good place as any to begin.So I offer you my thanks, I offer you my support, and I look forward to working with you and answering to you and the American people as we seek a more perfect union in the months and years ahead."
Thank you, Mr. President.