More than ever we need the press to lead the debate. Lead it with investigative stories and analyses that are grounded in intellectually honest reporting. We need the press to trust in the authority its reporters and editors earn through just-the-facts reporting that leads to a deep, contextualized understanding of the issues. Not so long ago there was a national debate over the question of good news versus bad news in Iraq. The reporters on the ground were saying that the situation was even worse than their reporting can convey. Here at home, the White House was insisting that freedom was still on the march, and its trumpeters in the partisan media were railing against the “liberal” MSM and its alleged desire to see America fail in Iraq. Today, all but the most deluded know that the reporters on the ground were right. They are the true authorities on the situation in Iraq. Many have been there longer than the military personnel who rotate in and out. They have written about it more, thought about it more, and studied it more. Why shouldn’t they be leading the debate?

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Brent Cunningham is CJR’s managing editor.