Jay Rosen writes on PressThink something that I’ve long felt–that journalistic neutrality doesn’t really exist, and it’s much more important to demonstrate your integrity by acknowledging and disclosing your biases. I came t this conclusion back in the 1970s, when I’d go to peace rallies and then read coverage in the New York Times (my hometown newspaper at the time)–and wonder if the reporter and I had actually been at the same event. In fact, as a high school student, I got my first bylines writing about those same demonstrations, for a conservative underground newspaper that ran my stuff with disclaimers that I didn’t represent their viewpoint. Both I and the editors were very clear about our biases, and I think it was better journalism as a consequence. [Why did they even run me? They took seriously their mandate to be an alternative voice, even to the point of running articles the disagreed with.]
Rosen quotes James Poniewozik of Time–a magazine that has historically been very quiet about its biases.
Modern political journalism is based on the bogus concept of neutrality (that people can be steeped in campaigns yet not care who wins) and the legitimate ideal of fairness (that people can place intellectual integrity and rigor over their rooting interests). Voting and disclosing would expose the sham of neutrality—which few believe anyway—and compel opinion and news writers alike to prove, story by story, that fairness is possible anyway. Partisans, bloggers and media critics are toxically obsessed with ferreting out reporters’ preferences; treating them as shameful secrets only makes matters worse.
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