At a time when the press is under increasing attack — amid headlines about “fake news,” political polarization and racial rifts — a Mormon apostle has this advice for journalists: keep reporting, keep writing, keep seeking truth.
After all, Elder D. Todd Christofferson told some 300 Latin journalists Saturday night, such work is essential to enlighten the public. And an informed citizenry, he said, forms the “bulwark of democracy.”
Christofferson, addressing the 73rd annual Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) at the Conference Center Theater in downtown Salt Lake City, trumpeted the freedoms of speech, expression, religion and the press, and warned against any attempts to curtail them.
“Safety does not come from stifling speech but from giving it a chance to breathe,” he said, according to a transcript on the LDS Church’s newsroom website. “Not everything that comes from our pens or our mouths will be useful, but when freedom is discouraged, nothing good will come out of them either.”
In a nod, perhaps, to some of the outrage — and the outrageous — circulating nowadays in social media, on alternative news sites and even in the mainstream press, Christofferson noted that “to get the sublime, sometimes we have to put up with a little of the ridiculous.”
The 72-year-old apostle for the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lauded members of the IAPA, a nonprofit organization of Western Hemisphere publications dedicated to protecting and promoting a free press, as “ambassadors of freedom and human rights.”
“We honor your efforts,” he added, “to give voice to the voiceless, to shine light on the difficulties of our world, and to bestow dignity on the human experience.”
Christofferson, who as a 19-year-old served a Mormon mission in Argentina, delivered his speech in Spanish. He said writers and journalists “play a key role” in helping societies meet ever-emerging and ever-changing challenges.
“Your privilege and calling as a journalist is to facilitate discussion and debate between people who have different beliefs, races, nationalities and political opinions,” he said. “ … The basic principles of journalistic integrity — objectivity in reporting, detachment from personal bias, and disinterested duty to the truth — are essential in facilitating public trust and civil discourse.”