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THE JOURNALIST’S MANTRA Or the importance of being Bob Dotson

I’m going to mention Bob Dotson. And by mentioning Bob Dotson, I am the second-best journalist on this page, and anybody else I would mention on this page couldn’t shine his shoes. Bob Dotson is the thing itself when it comes to journalistic integrity. He lives in Mystic. We’re lucky to have him here because he represents something this magazine aspires to, and he represents something that we’re losing.

Truth, perspective, and fairness are the elements I learned in journalism school that would make you a professional. Dotson—with his chronicling of the men and women that are mostly lost in our celebrity and hate-filled the media—is living proof of its importance. You’ll find it out in his Against The Tide section that begins on page 84. He has been a film-maker, a columnist for The Today Show, an author, and a “show me don’t tell me” example of truth, perspective,and fairness.

Here’s why it’s important. Media is a vehicle for information and it’s a bully pulpit. I don’t care if you’re the publisher of The New York Times, a writer for a niche blog, or the editor of Coastal Connecticut. Expressing yourself via media carries weight. It addresses different scales of audience, and by expressing yourself via media, you take on responsibility. You can be about truth,perspective, and fairness. Or you can be about propaganda. Or you can be a journalist of the highest order like Dotson, and show the truth and perspective behind the American dream and how it might be failing.

Words carry worlds. I love that phrase. I first heard it from Lydia Yuknavitch who is a memoirist and an author out of Portland, OR. She tends toward the more shocking and radical side of perspective than most. But the phrase is dead on the money. Local media, which AOL and others thought could be a compelling business at one point, is a great example. Even the smallest story about a kid who gets a scholarship or a teacher who wins an award carries worlds. Let’s go to the flipside. We deliberately stay away from political issues because they just don’t fit in this magazine format. But I will tell you that if you express yourself via media and use that platform to spread dis- honesty or hatred and further any kind of agenda that doesn’t advance the better angels of our nature, you’re doing a disservice to media, your readers, and the Holy Trinity of truth, perspective, and fairness.

One of the things we asked Bob Dotson for his Against The Tide case was what inspired him to be a journalist. It got me think- ing about that. What inspired me to be a journalist was actually Geraldo Rivera. Now you may think of Rivera as the guy who took an unfortunate nude selfie at three in the morning and posted it on Facebook. Or you may think of him as a wannabe celebrity.

But he started out as a badass. Back in the early 70s he worked for Eyewitness News in New York. He took on the state of local mental institutions, one of them called Willowbrook, in New York City. The conditions harkened back to medieval times. Patients laying on the floor in their own mess. No lighting. No staff. And no one wanted Rivera or his camera crew inside. Rivera pushed his way through physically with the camera crew and reported a series of stories that made huge impact. They were about truth, perspective, and fairness.

I have to admit that I love the drama of what Rivera was doing. And there have been times during my career where I felt like I talked to that mission of truth, perspective, and fairness. I don’t hit that every time. I can say Coastal Connecticut has hit it every time, even though we’re not exactly an investigative vehicle. But I do think we have given some perspective to life on the Connecticut Shoreline. We haven’t been to the hallowed heights of Bob Dotson. But we know words carry worlds.

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