Friday, November 08, 2013

Obfuscation by 'objectivity'

This is an interesting discussion between representatives of Old and New Journalism.  To see the New York Times representative still critique his competition by retreating to the self-proclaimed mantle of 'impartiality' is more than a little amusing:
Dear Glenn,
We come at journalism from different traditions. I’ve spent a life working at newspapers that put a premium on aggressive but impartial reporting, that expect reporters and editors to keep their opinions to themselves unless they relocate (as I have done) to the pages clearly identified as the home of opinion. You come from a more activist tradition — first as a lawyer, then as a blogger and columnist, and soon as part of a new, independent journalistic venture financed by the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Your writing proceeds from a clearly stated point of view.
In a post on Reuters this summer, media critic Jack Shafer celebrated the tradition of partisan journalism — “From Tom Paine to Glenn Greenwald” — and contrasted it with what he called “the corporatist ideal.” He didn’t explain the phrase, but I don’t think he meant it in a nice way. Henry Farrell, who blogs for The Washington Post, wrote more recently that publications like The New York Times and The Guardian “have political relationships with governments, which make them nervous about publishing (and hence validating) certain kinds of information,” and he suggested that your new project with Omidyar would represent a welcome escape from such relationships. 
I will grant that the new voices out there like Greenwald do not attempt to hide their opinions and leanings.  One would hope, however, as their share of information gathering and influence increases, that they would continue to ensure they are as aggressive in presenting both sides of an issue as they are with 'activism.'  The two are often at odds.

But the real dynamic I want to address is this: does anyone still believe that the traditional, corporate-focused world of journalism is any less biased or partisan than independent voices like Greenwald?  If nothing else, the reportage over the last two administrations (Bush and Obama) should have put to rest forever the idea that mainstream journalism is anything else but a tool of the bipartisan, statist ruling elite.

I would much rather read someone who is open about their leanings, such that I can include that in my consideration of what they have to say, than to deal with the false pretenses of those who want to claim some moral high ground of 'objectivity' that they actually fail to occupy.

The simple truth is that the world of establishment journalism has, by claiming objectivity while practicing anything but, simply become a force for propaganda.  I harbor some concern about the damage that overzealous "writers in the tradition of Thomas Paine" can cause.  But just as Obamacare may have been a necessary nadir to get people to wake up to the foolishness of technocracy, such writers may be the necessary corrective to finally get people to demand more from their sources of information.

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