Thursday, November 13, 2008

Long live the independent journalist

Like this Canadian reporter, I learned that you maintain independence as a reporter by keeping your dog out of the fight. That was hard for me. When I was in college, student activism led me to journalism.

Back then, the career choices were straight news or advocacy journalism. (I did both.) Now, there are a million variations. I find it very confusing.

Lots of people say good riddance to so-called objective journalism. But, sometimes I don’t care what the writer thinks. I just want the facts as carefully confirmed by a skillful reporter.

So, why would you be unable to report objectively on something if you have a public point of view? When I worked in NC, I explained it this way: Would you want someone who worked on the Jesse Helms campaign covering a meeting about diversity or abortion or affirmative action? (If you don’t know who Old Jess is, you should.) Do you want to read news from an antiwar activist embedded with the troops?

You might. I take a lot of my information served up with a point of view – usually one I agree with.

But, I still just want to read the news once in a while. Long live independence and objective voice!

Dave Sommer's National Post blog item got me thinking about all this:

I started journalism school at 18, and for nearly a decade after that I stayed studiously neutral even while away from work. No petitions, no demonstrations, no passing on e-mail chain-letters from relatives concerned about the Middle East. I’d made a choice — I was a journalist now, and my private life required me to make certain commitments outside the office not expected of other people. It wasn’t until I eventually left the daily news grind that I felt liberated — free from my duty to simply report the news instead of making it or cheering it on.
That’s why this week and last I’ve been disgusted at the rampantly tacky and flagrantly unethical posts on the Facebook pages of working journalists I know in Toronto and around the country.
Unabashed in their cheering at Barack Obama’s victory in the U.S. presidential elections, they’re giving me ample reason to think the foaming-mouth conservatives who decry the “liberal media” aren’t so crazy after all.

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