The lecture, "Ethics in Journalism," was part of the Hardman Lecture Series, sponsored by the college and the Hardman Family Endowment, and drew a full house in the 400-seat Church Street Center at MCLA.
Goodman said that unlike many journalists today she didn't prepare for the profession while in school.
"I didn't even get into journalism until after college," Goodman said. "I never worked at my high school or college newspaper. The closest I had come to working in journalism was when I was selling subscriptions to The New York Times in college."
She talked about her personal history in newspapers, beginning in the 1960s when there were few women in newsrooms, and about the state of journalism and roles of journalists then and today.
"When I started, women could literally not write for the news magazines; they could only do research," she said. "When I started work at the Detroit Free Press in 1965, I was one of the first women to work at the city desk in the newsroom."
Goodman said the profession as a whole has drastically changed over the years, especially in the current multimedia age.
"Journalists have become what most television producers call 'on-air personalities,' " she said. "(Journalists) have become part of the cult of personalities. We are not just observers, but participants. Would you ever think about seeing Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow on 'Hardball' or 'The O'Reilly Factor?' " she asked rhetorically when commenting on TV shows in which having a strong opinion is highly valued and shades of meaning are avoided like a plague.
She said she shuns such programs and sometimes avoids an appearance simply by telling the show's contact person she's undecided on the topic to be debated.
Goodman also commented on new media, including blogs. Some bloggers, she said, "jump to conclusions. Recently, when (Christian Science Monitor) journalist Jill Carroll was released after being held hostage in Iraq, most bloggers attacked her because she made anti-American statements under duress when she a hostage. Even worse, most bloggers didn't wait to look at the facts before they jumped on her."
In introducing Goodman, assistant professor Michael Birch of the department of English/communications at MCLA, said journalism was facing challenges in what he described as an "information-drenched" society.
"Journalism no longer is just about news producers," he said. "The truth of information is much more difficult to discover today. It is usually the print journalists who offer more in-depth accounts of a topic, and even then, the ability (to present it to) the audience in a clear concise fashion is sometimes lost in vagueness and ambiguity."
Goodman took several questions from the audience about journalism and the current state of politics, including from one audience member who asked her what gave her hope in the face of the overwhelming problems in the world and the sometimes commercialized and entertainment-obsessed media.
Work toward solution
"You find your way toward working for a solution," Goodman said. "You work for that in your small way, so you are trying to find a way to make the world better."
The Hardman Family Endowment was established in 2002 by Eleanor Furst Roberts to honor the family members who edited and published the North Adams Transcript for nearly a century. In addition to talks by eminent journalists, the endowment also funds a scholarship for a journalism student, faculty development and the preservation of local journalism materials.
Goodman's column runs in 400 newspapers, including The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. She began her column in 1976 at The Globe and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 1980.