Remarks by the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., at the launch of DePaul's Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence
May 5, 2016
Good evening. Thank you for honoring us with your presence.
Almost exactly eight years ago, on May 12, 2008, many of us gathered in the elegant dining room of the old Blackstone Hotel to celebrate raising the Department of Communication to the College of Communication. It was a signal moment in the growth of this important part of DePaul University.
I spoke at length that evening about my hopes and intentions for the new college. Many of those intentions have come to pass due to the extraordinary work of this faculty and professional staff. Tonight, one more of those hopes comes to pass, and one that especially pleases me.
The concept of the Fourth Estate is dated in its origins, referring to powers outside the establishment, which in the Middle Ages meant the nobility, clergy and the commoners. There are mixed versions of who first referred to the press as the Fourth Estate but it stuck and has continued for 200 years now. The concept is simple enough, but not so easily achieved in practice. It’s the idea of media as an independent watchdog on the other three, holding those with power accountable to the public good.
It’s no small thing to be considered one of society’s essential institutions, whose freedom is important enough to be enshrined in our Bill of Rights. Could you imagine the world without an independent media? The temptations associated with power are simply too strong to be left to operate outside of plain sight.
And yet, the media has enormous power as well, and is vulnerable to its own shortcuts, temptations and corruptions. As with any profession responsible for self-policingprofessional standards, we cannot take the highest levels of professionalism for granted. We who dare teach people for the profession must teach those standards at the outset.
I’ve worried for a long time that our students will enter our program seeing terrible journalism and accept that as how the professional operates. My hope is that our students will leave DePaul’s College of Communication knowing better.
- I want them to know that giving squabbling parties equal time is not the same as giving the public the truth.
- I want them to believe that it’s not enough to simply report assertions. Second and confirming sources are critical.
- I want them to spend a lifetime learning about the fields they are reporting. Substantive knowledge of a field matters.
- I hope they’ll spend their lives building credibility as well as sources.
- I pray they’ll become lifelong students of superb writing.
Thankfully, our faculty have long done yeoman’s work in this regard. Even still, I am thrilled that this college is creating a permanent structure to shape the next generation with the inner commitments appropriate to the Fourth Estate and to excellence.
And that’s why I’m also thrilled that Carol Marin and Don Mosely will build this center, working closely with their colleagues here at DePaul. They embody these standards and commitments. They have given their lives to protecting our citizens from the corruptive power of political leadership in Chicago. They are respected precisely because they do their homework. It is the excellence of their work that enables Chicago to trust what they tell us. I want those standards for every one of our graduates. Integrity AND excellence.
For that’s the title: The Center for Journalism Integrity AND Excellence. Neither of those suffices alone. Both together, however, are a powerful combination and gift to our world.
My congratulations, yet again, to this extraordinary college. And my thanks to everyone who is making this next step forward a reality. May God continue to bless your work abundantly, and through you, bless our world in need.