Helen Thomas, in her latest column, tells bloggers they aren’t journalists. I’ve had my say on that subject recently, and I won’t repeat myself. What I will take on is Thomas’ misconceptions about what journalism itself is. Here are some excerpts from her column:
“‘A journalist tries to get the facts right’ and tries to get close to a ‘verifiable truth,’ not to take sides but ‘to inspire public discussion,’ [Tom Rosenstiel, head of the Project for Excellence in Journalism] said.
“This isn’t a requirement for bloggers with axes to grind.
“Professional reporters and editors are trained to understand the need for neutrality in straight news stories. They also have been trained in the ethics that distinguish their profession.
“Fortunately, most newspapers in this country are still devoted to delivering impartial news stories. The editors and publishers see it as an indispensable public service.”
Without disagreeing with the first paragraph (getting the facts right and getting close to a verifiable truth), the rest of this is just rank illusion in the press. No journalist, and certainly no newspaper as a whole, is “neutral” or “impartial”.
Want an example? Wait until there’s a threatened transit strike in the nearest big city, and watch how all the TV channels and papers give people advice on how best to get to work (i.e., how best to help break the strike). On a larger scale, go through every paper in America, and monitor its coverage on every labor dispute in history, and see in what percentage of cases the paper has reported management’s side of the story more favorably than labor’s.
The press is “neutral” and that’s the defining characteristic of journalism? Don’t believe it for a minute, even from the mouth of Helen Thomas.
FoxNews sure isn’t ‘objective’, and doesn’t pretend to be neutral. Neither does the excellent Guardian. Both have points of views that come across in the stories they choose and the slants they give the stories.
However, what passes for neutral in the mainstream US press is, as pointed out, decidedly business-friendly, anti-union, and opposed to social agitation and change, a stance that is so pervasive that it ends up being accepted as normal and ‘unbiased.’ When of course, it isn’t unbiased at all.