There’s been a great deal written of late about the principles that govern journalism. In this polarized time marked by so much disinformation, many argue that objectivity — a guiding principle when I entered journalism in the 1970s — has lost its place.
Objectivity, it is said, leads to inadequate reporting or reporting of known falsehoods in the interest of giving voice to all. I am on the side of truth-telling being necessary in these times, but have always favored a pragmatic approach to journalism and let the facts take us where they lead. The old line “reporting without fear or favor” still works for me. Good journalism has always been about truth-telling. It’s always been about being fair and complete. In the end, it’s just about doing the work.
We formally launch Houston Landing today, without the legacy that traditional journalistic outlets face based on long years of practices and viewpoints. (We will not have an “editorial page” nor will we endorse political candidates.) We are unburdened with debates about the past. Ours is a clean slate, bolstered by the nonprofit, nonpartisan, no-paywall principles we embrace, and by carving an independent way to make Houston a better place, but to do so through truthful, thoroughly reported and fair journalism.
Independence is the key. So is transparency in how we do what we do. So is our commitment to under-covered communities and bringing such stories to the larger community. So is an understanding that part of our mission is to preserve democracy and to fight for it.
We embrace where we live, and we will report in communities that rarely see the media unless there is some sensational crime or natural disaster. This is an incredibly diverse and interesting place, and our independence will help us spend time in communities just listening, building understanding and then reporting back to the community at large.
Our commitment to diversity is not just about staffing numbers, though it is important to represent the diversity of this area. It is also about being authentic in our reporting, willing in our listening and understanding of differences.
Our independence also allows us to focus on news, issues and the performance of government and institutions. In other words, we aren’t the place to come if you’re worried about the Astros’ starting pitching or to debate where the best barbecue is in town. Our managing editor, John Tedesco, summed this up very nicely in a column last week. If you haven’t read it, it is worth your time.
I like this quote from Tom Rosenstiel, who teaches journalism at the University of Maryland and who has had a long career as a reporter, press critic and author. He is one of our industry’s best. It was in a conversation convened by Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute on the objectivity debate.
“The two things I think are really critical are to recognize who you are and what you don’t understand, and recognize why you’re engaged in this in the first place. If you don’t do those two things, you’re going to fail.”
We launch today with eyes wide open and a commitment to our mission of making Houston better one story at a time.
I wrote this last week but it bears repeating: We ask your help in achieving our goals. We want your feedback and story ideas. We are building an advisory board and will host community events and conversations.
And as a nonprofit, we ask for your partnership. Read our content, sign-up for our free newsletters and donate to support our efforts. We will not accept traditional advertising, so your financial support is crucial to our growth and success.
We are grateful to be part of Houston and grateful for your support.