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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cheering in the Newsroom

James Taranto points out an interesting story from Seattle, which discusses the reaction of one editor to the cheering in the newsroom when Karl Rove's resignation was announced. In short, the editor decried that reporters would show such personal opinions on politics in the newsroom. I thought that a few of the comments were quite well put, and interestingly similar to the comments I heard a few months back from ABC's political director when he was asked about "creating balance" in the newsroom:
If we wore our politics on our sleeves in here, I have no doubt that in this and in most other mainstream newsrooms in America, the majority of those sleeves would be of the same color: blue. Survey after survey over the years have demonstrated that most of the people who go into this business tend to vote Democratic, at least in national elections. That is not particularly surprising, given how people make career decisions and that social service and activism is a primary driver for many journalists.

But if we allowed our news meetings to evolve into a liberal latte klatch, I have no doubt that a pathological case of group-think would soon set in. One of the advances of which I’m most proud over the years is our willingness to question and challenge each other as we work to give our readers the most valuable, meaningful journalism we can.

It’s not about "balance," which is a false construct. It isn't even about "objectivity," which is a laudable but probably unattainable goal. It is about independent thinking and sound, facts-based journalism -- the difference between what we do and the myopic screed that is passed off as "advocacy" journalism these days.
While one can take issue with his roundabout claims that liberals are more interested in social service, his last paragraph there is probably the most important for news editors to remember in the workplace. It seems that one of the biggest problems with the media today is their obsession with creating that "objective" "balance", which is anything but - it becomes less about reporting the news and more about creating some sort of 'equal' standing with every viewpoint... thereby making issues out to be larger (or smaller) than they ought to be. We need more editors to watch their papers and make sure that they're reporting the news, not the editorialized version of it.

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