“Why journalism matters” ? Here’s why.

To the Editor:

Thanks to John F. Burns for nailing it in his April 12 Sunday Review essay, “The Things I Carried Back,” about his 40 years as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times.

A fundamental human failing is not so much any specific ideology as it is our penchant for ideology in any of its religious or political forms.

Combine that penchant with our tendency to think in categories, our weakness for attention-getting hyperbole, our preference for anecdote over data, and the implicit assumption that the validity of any belief is increased by the amount of time it has been believed, and our persistent human shortcomings become understandable.

The best reporting avoids these pitfalls, and we will never outgrow our need for it.


Longboat Key, Fla.

The writer is professor emeritus of anthropology at Penn State.

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