Because in the end, a newspaper, even a great one, does not have the ability to effect change on its own. It can only inform, analyze and agitate. The rest is up to the people themselves.
Of course, that aspect of newspapering is the one most fraught with danger. With the wrong intentions or bad information, an investigative piece turns into a hatchet job, an interpretation turns into a twisting of facts and a column turns into a screed.
And, frankly, even with the right intentions, many times people will question our motives, our newsgathering process, and, sometimes, our morality and ethics. That is part of the deal, though, and I fully accept it.
My favorite definition of reporting was written by Carl Bernstein, one half of the famed team that showed the world how crooked and corrupt the Nixon Administration truly was. Bernstein, in a column for Time magazine in 1990, opined that:
“[R]eal reporting is nothing more than the best obtainable version of the truth. Getting at the truth is hard work. It requires phone calls, knocking on doors, spending hours with people who know the subject and, most important of all, giving credence to information that might be contrary to a reporter's preconceived notion of the story.”
Beautiful, huh? Of course, it assumes a few things. First, an objective reality (I got my undergraduate degree in philosophy, so don't even get me started on this one); second, an unquenchable curiosity and desire to know the truth; third, a willingness to work hard; fourth, time to track it down; fifth, a willingness to throw everything out the window and start over if the facts don't match up; and, finally, editors who care.