Bob Priddy in Hall of Fame acceptance speech: Journalists don't lie

June 5, 2018 01:30

Longtime RTDNA board member and former news director of Missourinet Bob Priddy was inducted into the Missouri Broadcasters Hall of Fame on Saturday.  Priddy served on the board for 27 years from 1983 until 2010. He was also the first news director to twice lead the association as chair in 1989 and 2004.

Priddy was once thrown out of a Lincoln University curators meeting because he refused to turn off his tape recorder. In announcing his induction, the Missouri Broadcaster’s Association noted that “Priddy is not afraid to ruffle feathers.”

That spirit was on display during Priddy’s acceptance speech Saturday night. Displaying humor at time and at other times anger, Priddy held the room captivated and received a standing ovation for his remarks.

Excerpts of the remarks are below:
 
In my half-century plus as a journalist first—a broadcast journalist, second—I never—ever—broadcast “fake news.” The Missourinet never once did “fake news,” nor did the hundreds of news people at dozens of stations throughout Missouri who provided stories to us.  

Those who accuse people like me of doing fake news are accusing people like me of being liars.  I don’t lie.  We didn’t lie. The Missourinet today doesn’t lie. And our affiliate news people who fed us thousands of stories never lied. 

When it comes to integrity, I will stack the news people I worked with against the claimed integrity of those seeking or holding positions of power any day of the week. 

It might seem that those who accuse people in my profession of doing “fake news” are only painting the national news organizations with that brush. But there is a splatter that taints all journalists, and I do not believe it is unintentional.  

My good friend Dan Shelley, who has gone from sending us stories from KTTS in Springfield to being the Executive Director of the Radio Television Digital News Association, recently observed, “In today’s divisive, vitriolic environment, journalists should watch their backs but not back down. The only antidote to attacks on responsible journalism is more and better journalism.”

So let me put it plainly: Wherever in our industry there is fake news, it is not likely to be in newsrooms that are free from political, economic, and corporate pressure.  But to the misfortune of our communities, to our state, and to our nation, there have been too many places where the independent, local, news voice has been reduced to insignificance, or has been turned into a corporate mouthpieces. 

It might be argued that our industry is complicit in undermining the work of the people in our newsrooms because of the constant and badly imbalanced drumbeat of division, derision, denigration, and distrust on our airwaves that convinces people they are victims of—rather than partners in—the American system of government.

In effect, we splatter ourselves, and in doing so, we do a disservice to the people of integrity— the reporters, news directors, and editors, the photojournalists in whose programs candidates and special interests might buy time but should never control content.. 

This is a time for all of us to find the courage to build or rebuild public trust in ourselves by taking more seriously our roles as trustees of the public, and being more of a “necessity” than the furniture store in the next block, the clothing store at the mall, the yogurt shop up the street.

It is time for less manipulative talk….and time for a commitment to more significant news that helps our public think for itself.

I am grateful to the Missouri Broadcasters Association for this recognition of what I have been and what I still am, and the hopes I have that our industry can be more of a necessity for more people than that the furniture store in the next block.

When Priddy stepped down from the RTDNA board in 2010, the Association honored him with the Bob Priddy Award, which is now presented annually to board members who exemplify Priddy’s distinguished and consistent service to RTDNA.