For the longest time, we’ve lived with the notion that journalists should be unbiased-that the reporter should practice his or her craft with an unfiltered lens so as to allow people to make their own choices.
Thank goodness we can let go of that stupid principle:
So the so-called “liberal bias” is not a myth, after all. No news there. The news is that this is a very good thing for society.
So says George Kennedy, a professor emeritus of the journalism school at my current institution of higher learning, the University of Missouri.
In an op-ed piece published by the J-School’s community paper, Professor Kennedy sets up his thesis as such:
Journalism is self-described as the outside agitator, the afflicter of the comfortable and comforter of the afflicted. Journalists expect ourselves to be the watchdogs of the powerful, the voice of the voiceless, the surrogate for the ordinary citizen and the protector of the abused and downtrodden. Journalists are expected to be – and expect ourselves to be – forever skeptical, consistently open-minded, respectful of differences and sensitive to what sociologists call “the other.” Neither patriotism nor religion is exempt from critical examination. Look at that description. Does it seem more liberal or more conservative?
Actually, Professor, journalism is defined by Merriam-Webster’s as “writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation”. Journalism is not supposed to have a bias for one very specific reason: you are providing the facts to the public. As such, they should have unbiased information so that they can actually do silly things like interpret the information for themselves.
But I digress, and continue:
As the conservative scholar S. Robert Lichter reports, most journalists describe themselves as liberals. And why wouldn’t they? Why would conservatives, in general, be attracted to a craft with the job description above and with, in addition, penury and inhumane working conditions as the entry-level standards?…Just suppose we had a journalism that WASN’T questioning, disrespectful of authority, open to new ideas, dogging the powerful and speaking for the weak. Remember when that reviled liberal Dan Rather promised in the post-9/11, pre-Iraq days to salute and follow the marching orders of our elected leader? Too many of us did, and we all remember what resulted.
Really? Dan Rather supported the president in lockstep? Well, thanks for presenting that little nugget of news. Oh, and to suggest that conservatives wouldn’t enter journalism? I’ll give you a little piece of information: many conservatives in the news shut up about their worldview for fear of retribution from their editors. I have many friends at MU who would not affiliate with the College Republicans for fear of retribution from professors and editors who ordered students to abstain from outside political affiliations. I can say for a fact, though, that there are several students of the J-School who not only affiliate with the College Democrats, but have held leadership positions within that organization. Odd that those students are never taken to task.
And that, Professor, is the true problem with your view on how journalism should be. My friends were right for abstaining from being CR’s. Those students who affiliate with the CD’s are wrong. Everyone has bias, but one should work as hard as possible to present themselves in an objective light to ensure the public that they are not trying to sway their vote with their privileged position. Journalism is not another platform for people to advocate on behalf of a party or a candidate. It is news, and should remain news and not commentary.
But why should George Kennedy know that? He’s only a professor of the craft, and one which brings to mind the old saying: “Those who can’t do, teach.”