Tom Ashbrook, an award-winning journalist who has covered stories all over the world, came home last week to central Illinois. Based in Boston at WBUR, Ashbrook was the guest this past Friday for the 2016 GLT's Radio Faces. He's currently the host of NPR's On Point, though his resume includes forays into Alaskan oil fields as a surveyor, and a producer of international editions of vintage Chinese Kung Fu movies.
Journalists have to be tough, said Tom Ashbrook. "When journalists cover power, it's the most important task they have, because of the transparency that good journalism brings. Power is going to try and hang onto its privileges, hang onto its secrets. And so journalists have to be tough to get in there and dig and see what's really going on."
And journalists shouldn't flinch in the face of insults and contempt, which seemed to be the rule of the day on the Trump campaign during the election season. "I never heard a candidate who spoke so contemptuously of journalism and the news media as Donald Trump had," Ashbrook said. "Okay, you can say well, maybe the news media has come to have certain habits of mind or perspective that need to be challenged. All right, fair enough. We'll have to see, though. Will this president have respect for the fundamental role of the 4th estate of a free press in our democracy. It's critical. It's absolutely essential. And we're all waiting to see how he treats it when he's in office."
Regardless of how Trump behaves, Ashbrook has high esteem and expectations for the people of the Twin Cities, where Ashbrook grew up. "I love Bloomington/Normal so much. It was great for me to be back here this week, the week of the election. It's been such a tumultuous week for so many people. I've seen people cheering, I've seen a lot of people crying. Clearly, no matter where you sit politically, we've got enormous challenges ahead of us now. I think of this as a deeply good place and I want it to stay good, I want it to stay representative of the best values in our country. And that means open hearts and a loving community. And that takes a sober assessment of what it takes for this country and all of its citizens to do well. I want this place to represent for the deepest true values of our constitution. All the talk that's going about about dividing us and there's been a lot of disrespect for American diversity. We have got to embrace this, this is who we are. And I'm counting on Bloomington/Normal and McLean County to stand up for those values."