Recently deceased former Mercury News journalist Phil Trounstine was a luminary journalist in a bygone era.
Trounstine was a consummate professional, a cynical curmudgeon, fastidious, inquisitive, and a damn good writer. He was never intimidated by power and when he was wrong, he could good laugh at his own humanity.
Trounstine thrived in the seemingly forgotten world of journalistic ethics and accurate reporting. His questions were pointed and relevant. His disdain for dishonesty and self- promotion was evident in his articles. Many politicians feared his poison pen, but he was always accurate in his articles.
He never asked, “how do you feel?” He stuck to facts and while you could disagree with his conclusions, his analysis could make or break a politician.
I first met Phil when he covered the San Jose City Council, but got to know him much better when he covered the Cranston-Zschau race in 1986. He was one of the reporters on the bus, along with Keith Love of the LA Times, Mark Simon of the San Mateo Times, Mark Z. Barabak of the San Francisco Chronicle and Jerry Roberts—his longtime friend and collaborator in Calbuzz—also with the Chronicle at the time.
In this age of instant Internet news and analysis, it is hard for many to imagine the time when these professional journalists were the arbiters of news and the dispensers of fact.
They took their roles seriously. They had a moral sense of duty and Trounstine embodied those qualities.
Good journalism still exists, but it is struggling.
The likes of Phil Trounstine, along with the ethics and integrity he embodied, are losing the global war for information dissemination.
San José Spotlight columnist Rich Robinson is a political consultant, attorney and author of “The Shadow Candidate.” His columns appear every fourth Wednesday of the month.