Dave Silverbrand: Don’t Shred Your Cred – March 29, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bulletin, bulletin. Dave Silverbrand is opposed to lying. Film at 11. Don’t you wish everybody was?

As a College of the Redwoods Journalism teacher, I am always looking for ways of “passing the torch” to the new Woodwards and Bernsteins. That’s why I took them to Arcata Plaza the other day to troll its denizens for truth.

It was, I have seen, the high point of my semester. Sure, my lectures are enrapturing. But how interesting can a First Amendment lecture be to a football linebacker. To him, free speech is flattening the guy in your way.

My students came back with fascinating stories. I expected nothing less. They also came back with a new burst of energy. It’s fun walking on and then writing about the wild side.

I try to temper my lectures with a basic grain of truth. Credibility is everything. When I caught my girlfriend “exchanging oxygen” with another guy, I dumped her. With me, she had exhaled away her credibility.

Similarly, when the Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz was caught stealing info about the Tucson shooting from the Arizona Republican, she gave away her “street cred.” How could a woman who had one of the best jobs in journalism and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize do something so stupid?

There will be some pathological reason, I am sure. The New York Times guy who did it said he had a bipolar disorder and now is a consultant in the field. Horwitz will also claim some extenuating circumstance.

The point is that credibility is everything. Give it away and you’ve got nothing left, in my opinion. Post-it note to Charlie Sheen: give it up and move on.

That’s what I tell my Journalism students, a lesson I hope that will carry with them wherever they go.

Dave Silverbrand is the dean of North Coast journalists.