Connections: Talking Journalism

Intellectual honesty continues to be the reporter’s credo

As host of the third panel on timely, serious issues under the umbrella of Guild Hall’s Hamptons Institute on Monday, Alec Baldwin wore a number of his many hats comfortably. The topic, “The New Normal in News: Ideology vs. Fact,” was explored by Mr. Baldwin and a prestigious panel: Nicholas Lehmann, former dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a frequent essayist for The New Yorker, Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now!,” the long­time muckraking radio program, and Bob Garfield, the author of five books and a podcast on journalism and advertising and a co-host of the radio and online program “On the Media.”

Mr. Baldwin said he has been a news junky since he was 10, something we know here at The Star from the letters to the editor he has submitted over the years. As president of Guild Hall’s board of trustees, he helped plan the panels and took this one to heart, asking tough questions and eliciting generally jaundiced views of the corporate media and TV pundits from the panelists. He even found an occasion to bring down the house with his comical and by now familiar Donald Trump impersonation.

Acknowledging that the panelists could all be considered liberals, he said Guild Hall had tried but failed to get an avowed conservatives like Tucker Carlson to take part. And he drew out an apparent lofty consensus: Despite apocalyptic change in how and where people get news, and the many questionable sources, intellectual honesty continues to be the reporter’s credo.

As someone who has dedicated more than the last 50 years to newspapering, it was an evening well spent. The conversation was informative, sometimes provocative, and helped put “fake news” in perspective. Besides, Nicholas Lehmann had quite a few things to say about today’s Columbia School of Journalism, where the late Everett Rattray, who edited this paper from 1958 to 1980, and I met and sealed our fates.

The panelists bemoaned the lack of press coverage of local and state government across the country, saying it resulted in the loss of an informed citizenry, and Mr. Baldwin cited the Los Angeles Times as a major newspaper that managed to do it all. I couldn’t help think he could have applauded The East Hampton Star for being a community forum, where issues are brought to light and opinions of all stripes are published week after week in our expansive (and sometimes exhaustive) letters pages. Turn this page and take a look. There are 40 letters this week.