Let’s kill these four standards of journalism

Celeste Headlee
23 min readDec 2, 2022
In 2016, John Oliver used an episode of “Last Week Tonight” to focus on the problems facing journalists.

This is the transcript of a lecture I delivered last month while accepting the AP-Eunson Distinguished Lecturer Award at my undergraduate alma mater, Northern Arizona University. The ceremony is a joint endeavor between the Associated Press and the School of Communications.

Once you’ve read the entire speech, I think you’ll understand why I felt a little nervous about delivering these remarks to the students and faculty. To be honest, I felt quite anxious and many times, while speaking, paused to ask myself, “Should I really read this next part?”

To my surprise, the speech was greeted with enthusiasm and heartfelt support. So, I present it to you as well, hoping it finds another receptive audience.

I want to begin with a cautionary note. I didn’t study journalism while in school. I was a music major here at Northern Arizona University and later earned a Master’s in Music from the University of Michigan. I performed professionally as an opera singer for years and never once considered taking a job as a journalist.

My first job in radio was as a weekend classical music host at KNAU, the public radio station that serves north and central Arizona including the Navajo and Hopi reservations. I began reporting just a few months after taking the job when an NPR producer offered to train me; I then…