People often ask me what good is a Free Press anyway? After all, WHY do we need journalists? What EXACTLY is it that they do?
I like to use this analogy to explain: The truth can be big and blinding, like the sun. It is just as illuminating and powerful. And, it is as essential to life as we know it on this planet. However, left unfiltered by some protective means, the sun can also have a devastating effect. It is the source for all life but it can also burn and destroy. That's why doctors advise against long, unprotected exposure to the sun's rays. They recommend the use of sunscreen in the proper amount and potency if one plans to be exposed to the sun for any length of time.
Well, that's where we come in.
Journalists (at least good ones) act as a type of sunscreen for the truth. Stories, in their raw form, are usually big and complex. They generate a lot of heat, if you will. They must be researched, scrutinized, and then, most importantly, interpreted. Without these checks and balances, a story, like the sun, can burn instead of illuminate. It is up to the journalist to find a way to filter out the harmful rays of distortion and inaccuracy and allow the essence of truth to shine through. Honed through education and years of experience, the journalist, like the right SPF sunscreen, creates a safe setting from which we can bathe in the light of truth and honesty. Left unfiltered, like the unchecked rays of the sun, a story which has not been properly screened for intent and accuracy, i.e. vetted, can do far more harm than good.
Of course, there are those who prefer their information completely unfiltered. And, they have a point. It is important for each person to interpret the facts as they see them. But, it is the journalist who MUST present those facts in a way that we can see them for what they are while not being burned by an unfiltered lie. That is why journalism is a sacred profession. It is an enormous responsibility to shine the light on the truth while at the same time protecting the individual from getting burned.