If you were in the room Wednesday evening, you know the 29th RTDNF First Amendment Awards was a night of humor, humility, celebration, remembrance and, perhaps more than any year, inspiration.
It was a night full of “you-had-to-be-there” moments as the distinguished slate of honorees reminded us all why journalism, the constitutionally-mandated responsibility to which we are called, is such a crucial public service.
We heard how even just one journalist can be a catalyst for positive change as honoree David Begnaud recalled thinking his first night in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria."… there has to be more to this that doesn’t just end with the broadcast. What else can we do?"
"It is the First Amendment that makes us great." - CNN President Jeff Zucker
We saw how behind every on air journalist is a team – editors and producers, station owners and presidents, thousands of fellow news team members making their work possible – as honorees acknowledged their teams.
We were asked to remember our roots, and to share them, as our honorees highlighted how who they are – gay, an immigrant, a veteran – has shaped their compassion for the communities where they report. Opening ourselves to our communities, said NBC News/MSNBC “Road Warrior Kasie Hunt, “give[s] people a sense of who we are as journalists make up their own minds instead of just listening to the rhetoric that we that we hear.”
We remembered why we do what we do: For our grandchildren. Because of our grandparents. For those who just want someone to listen. For those we lost.
“All he wanted to do was write,” – Karen Attiah said of Washington Post colleague Jamal Khashoggi
Underlying the celebration the First Amendment as the bedrock of our nation was an ardent call by all to remember and continue to pursue the duty, mission, calling, and responsibility that is journalism.
To get the facts. To own mistakes. To be thorough. To defend the First Amendment.
As Wednesday's Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award winner Shepard Smith said, "Good night and get it right!"