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Writing a guest post comparing historical novelists and journalists reminded me of another consequence of a society having only a select few who can write: no fair, independent truth-tellers.

In Charlemagne’s day, writing was left to the clerks. Charlemagne himself could read but not write, despite some attempts later in life to scratch out letters on a wax tablet. Those clerks served the Church or were employed by an aristocrat. Their purpose was to do what the boss wanted, not provide a fair, objective account of events for the masses.

Not that it would make much difference for medieval folks. While secular and Church nobility formed alliances with royalty, commoners had no say in who would lead them. As imperfect as our politics are today, our citizenry does have that say, and the independent voices of journalists are critical in decision making.

Journalists aren’t perfect—no one is. And I, a former newspaper reporter and editor, am the first to criticize short-sighted corporate decisions in the interest of the next quarterly profit. But the people who shared the newsroom with me were honest professionals verifying their facts and trying to tell all sides of a story.

For more about how novelists and journalists face similar issues, see my post at Home Row.


Not a journalist: Einhard’s biography of Charlemagne is far from an objective account (15th century, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)