Scott Pelley and the freedom of the press
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Scott Pelley and the freedom of the press


[PELLEY] Well, I think we’ve always been the
bad guys. [SMITH] You do? [PELLEY] Well, we’re the messengers. We’re the messengers, the messenger is always
the bad guy. [SMITH] But you know, the trust in the media
today is at a historic low. The number of people who believe that we make
mistakes and cover them up and don’t acknowledge them is at a historic high. The number of people who look at our news
products and say, I don’t see myself in what you produce, that’s at a historic high. When did everything upturn and why? [PELLEY] Again, I think that it’s always been
this way to some degree, but you’re right. We’re in a particular time right now. When I was anchoring the evening news, we
were very frank about when the president was telling the truth and when he wasn’t. And after one of our broadcasts, he tweeted
that CBS News was the enemy of the American people. I go back to Madison. [SMITH] You go to Madison at the end of the
book. [PELLEY] Absolutely. During the Sedition Act in 1798, believe it
or not, made it a felony for a reporter to criticize any member of Congress or the president
of the United States. Editors went to jail during that time. Madison wrote a critique of the Sedition Act
in which he said, “Freedom of the press “is the right that guarantees all the others.” [SMITH] Other rights, yeah, right. He knew that if we could say what we wanted
to say, read what we wanted to read, write what we wanted to write, then all of the rights
that he put in the Bill of Rights would be protected. And so that’s our role. And that’s what I tell audiences today. We’re not the enemy of the American people,
we’re in the Constitution for a reason. [SMITH] Do you think we play defense too much
as an industry? I wonder if we shouldn’t be playing offense. I wonder if we shouldn’t be saying, “Look,
“everything you know about the world, good, bad, “and in between, is because of journalism.” [PELLEY] Well, there’s a little bit of offense
in that book. [SMITH] I absolutely think there is. But I just wonder if we all should be more,
we’re in kind of a defensive crouch all the time these days, in part because official
condemnation is also at an all-time high. [PELLEY] A guy came up to me on the street
in Manhattan the other day and said, “Oh, this must be a terrible time to be a reporter.” And I said, “No, this is a great time to be
a reporter “because the American people right now are looking “at what we do and it’s an
opportunity to tell them “what we do, how we do it, and what our values are.” [SMITH] And for old guys like us, it’s a moment
of disruption and innovation and reinvention and transformation and that creates opportunity
to do things differently and better. [PELLEY] Absolutely, and it’s exciting. You’re not dull. [SMITH] There’s no problem in the world related
to journalism that can’t be solved with more and better journalism, I’m convinced. [PELLEY] Absolutely right, and must be. Because there is no democracy without journalism. [SMITH] And that’s a fine place to end.

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