Some happy news for NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel: he is the 2022 winner of the RTDNA’s John F. Hogan Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes an individual’s contributions to the journalism profession and press freedom.
Engel accepted the award Thursday evening in Indianapolis and—in his acceptance remarks—delivered what came across as “a call to action” to the journalists in attendance, warning that free speech and democracy are endangered—and that journalists have a responsibility to overcome what he calls “censorship by static,” that has come to characterize the social media age over the past 16 years.
“So, what you have now is censorship by static, where there’s just so much information— a lot of it false or rumors or unimportant—that the actual important voices get drowned out,” said Engel. “And it’s a very insidious kind of way of confusing people, making people disinterested, making people easily manipulated.
“So, I think we, who are in the in the news business, need to be aware of this. There’s a new kind of tamping down of information that isn’t just cutting off the source. It is confusing people by overwhelming, forcing them to drink from a firehose where everything is not necessarily what it seems—and something is deliberately put in there to be incorrect.”
On how the media can solve newfound challenges to journalism, Engel added, “It’s easy to get complacent, because we’re all chasing eyeballs, right? Everyone out here is chasing numbers,” he said. “But I think we have to also with that, consider our responsibility that each broadcast should matter. Each broadcast should have a point. Each broadcast should try and help people understand the world a little bit better.
“Because if we’re just chasing eyeballs and we’re just feeding people more junk food—and in a society that is struggling with information obesity—I don’t think that’s going to help the planet that we’re living in, the country that we’re living in, going forward.”