Journalists and access - is it worth selling out?

I know I’m a little late on this horse, but I feel I need to speak to it. Jon Stewart of *The Daily Show *put the spotlight on one of the worse practices of some journalists – valuing their “special relationships” and access to the subjects they are suppose to cover over their seemingly not-so-special relationships with the readers they are suppose to be working for.

The Huffington Post does a great round-up of what I’m referring to:

Jon Stewart Mocks Media Reaction To Michael Hastings’ Ability To Do Actual Journalism

I take great pride in being “blacklisted” by many in the Canadian higher education establishment because of my honest reporting of what occurs within the university sector.

My job is to make sure public institutions are accountable and transparent to the public. I want Canadian universities to be successful, and I firmly believe the best way for them to succeed is by being honest, transparent, and accountable.

When a reporter worries more about access than reporting the honest unfiltered truth, everyone loses.

It is for this reason that I don’t mind being ignored by a few public relations representatives.

I’ve been very fortunate to have started my journalism career under the direction of Tony Keller who was my managing editor at Maclean’s. He always stood behind me and always supported me when universities called to complain about my coverage.

He stood behind my editor and I when we reported the hard truths that nobody else was willing to report.

I often wonder if I would value access as much as some other journalists if I had not been guided by a managing editor that valued getting the full truth – no matter how uncomfortable – over getting “exclusives” and “special access” handed to our publication as a reward for being docile.

I’m going to replay Jon Stewart’s scathing assessment often this summer, especially as we near September and I return to covering post-secondary education again.