Last night, I had the honor of presenting the first Larry Foster Award for Integrity in Public Communication to a journalist: Alan Murray. The award was granted by the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, an academic center founded at Penn State by the late Larry Foster, former head of communications at Johnson & Johnson.
I met Alan when I was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to be assistant secretary of the Treasury for public affairs and Alan was covering global economic policy from Washington for the Wall Street Journal. It was a contentious time. The Savings and Loan crisis. The Brady Third World debt Plan. Protracted tax and budget negotiations between a Republican Administration and a Democratic Congress.
Alan was determined to get to the truth, to the essential reality that the world needed to know. My job, as I saw it, was to help him do his job. Of course, the relationship between a government or corporate spokesman and a journalist must be somewhat adversarial. I represented the Administration's positions and Alan had an obligation to look critically at our claims, and to consider also the views of others, who opposed us.
But that didn't mean he thought I was a liar and I thought he was the enemy. On the contrary, I always felt, and I hope Alan did, too, that we were on the same side. We were on the side of truth. Of justice. Of fairness. Of integrity in public communication. If Alan did his job well, it helped me to do my job, which was to inform the American people.
I welcomed Alan's determination to report on the views of others who didn't agree with us – as unpleasant as that might have seemed at times, especially when we were convinced we were right – because that helped us to understand the reality of the world outside our bubble. All organizations are prone to group-think. We convince ourselves that we are right based on our narrow view of the world.
The press plays an indispensable role in giving voice to all viewpoints and perspectives, and we have an obligation to listen to those views with an open heart and mind.
If ever there was a time to celebrate the value of journalism in our pluralistic, democratic society; if ever there was a time to embrace journalism's role in holding our institutions accountable; if ever there was a time to reassert our belief in the freedom of the press to do its job, this is that time. And it's fitting that the journalist the Page Center chose to honor for his lifetime of integrity is Alan Murray.
I've followed Alan's career closely for many, many years. Washington Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal. Washington Bureau Chief of CNBC and host of Capitol Report. Deputy Managing Editor and Editor of the Online Edition of the Journal. President of the Pew Research Center. Editor of Fortune. Chief Content Officer, Time Inc. And along the way, the author of a number of books, including the acclaimed "Showdown at Gucci Gulch." His current Fortune CEO Daily email is indispensable reading as I start my day.
Through it all: a relentless search for the truth, for context, for fairness, for reality.
I have a sense that Alan's biggest contribution may be yet to come. At Fortune, his Change the World annual issue and his discussions with business leaders and even the Pope on "A New Business Manifesto" are working to encourage business to use its considerable power to drive social and economic change that will make the world a better place, where all its citizens can prosper and thrive.
At the Page Society and the Page Center – two separate, but closely aligned organizations – we share that optimistic aspiration.