By A. J. Stoecklin
Rex Smith, Editor-at-Large at the Albany Times Union, visited the University at Albany campus on Feb. 26 to speak with journalism students.
Smith has an extensive history in the field of journalism. His newspaper career began in 1974, spanning multiple papers, including The Record, the Rensselaer Republican, and the Albany Times Union, where he has been the editor since 2002.
At the core of Smith’s talk was the idea of journalistic integrity. According to Smith, the purpose of journalism is to gain “a true picture of what goes on beyond your view.” Smith told students that telling the truth is never as simple as it seems.
Smith outlined four important pillars of journalism. The first is to search for the truth and report it as fully as possible.
“If you just tell people what happened, you’re not necessarily doing your job as a journalist,” Smith said.
Smith also noted that journalists should act independently, free from their own personal biases. In the same vein, he said that a journalist owes it to his or her audience to be transparent. This builds trust between the two.
The fourth pillar Smith spoke of was minimizing harm. Although journalists are supposed to report the whole truth, it’s impossible to ignore the negative effects a story might have on someone’s life. To minimize harm, a newspaper could choose to remove a story from being searchable online.
“These are human judgments we are making to be as fair as possible,” Smith said.
At the core of journalism is the idea of complete honesty for the sake of the reader. This can result in backlash for the author-- however, for those who can stomach the pitfalls of the profession, this is a small price to pay for spreading the truth.
Smith put it best when he said, “The only thing I’m going to do is write the truth.”