Jeb Bladine: Pitts optimistic on future of journalism
Leonard Pitts, known for messages of hope inserted into nationally syndicated columns about social and political problems, says he has changed.
“I have not hope,” the bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist said Tuesday night; “I offer you only faith.”
Speaking to a packed house at Linfield College, Pitts revealed his liberal/progressive perspectives on race and politics have been shaken by recent events. However, he found reason for optimism about the future of journalism.
That note of hope emerged when Pitts reflected on President Donald Trump’s assertion that the news media “is the enemy of the American people.” Asked if those words affect his selection and approach to column topics, Pitts responded at length:
“Those charges, I can promise you, will have absolutely no impact on me,” he said clearly.
“I started to write about it this week, but I’m just so Trumped out, I really just decided to write about something else … I know that for at least two columns I’m going to be on a Trump break.
“That said, what he (Trump) said will not impact me. And I think the only thing it will do for journalists, frankly, is probably energize them. This whole idea of being an enemy of the state, I think, will energize people in my profession.
“The fascinating thing about Trump’s war on the media – and this is all anecdotal and it’s very early, but I’ve been hearing this from multiple sources so I’m kind of encouraged – is that it seems to have actually strengthened journalism and people’s regard for journalism. Suddenly, I have people coming to me – and my editors telling me that other people are reporting the same thing – people coming to me saying, ‘Oh, you are the last line of defense. You are a bulwark against cynicism.’
“And I find that fascinating because as a journalist, I know that I am in an industry that has traditionally been held in all the respect and esteem of used car salesmen and divorce attorneys. People don’t love us. Except that suddenly, there is love.
“I’m also told that subscriptions to newspapers are trending up. Suddenly people want their newspaper again … It’s fascinating that Trump’s war on the news media seems to be leading to an appreciation of the importance of news media on the part of people who had kind of forgotten us, or didn’t think that we mattered.”
Jeb Bladine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-687-1223.