Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Journalistic Objectivity"

Ain't no dang such thing, as Hunter S Thompson tried so hard to tell us. All it is and all it has ever been is journalists choosing not to tell us a great deal of what they know about the things they're supposedly reporting about.

"It's true that Trump is batshit-crazy and might nuke the human race out of existence 10 minutes after taking office; but for us to SAY so right out in PUBLIC would be UNFAIR and would violate our sacred principle of JOURNALISTIC OBJECTIVITY!"

Yes, people actually say crazy things like that. People who are employed as journalists. The vast majority of people who are employed as journalists in the US live by such insane rules, it seems, unfortunately. More craziness:

A story has been going around lately, to the effect that 94 percent of political contributions from journalists in the US go to Democratic political campaigns. I don't know whether that figure is accurate. If it is, it's not the crazy part. The crazy part is that right-wing news outlets are reporting it, and claiming that it's proof of liberal media bias.

94 percent. That's similar to the 97 percent of meteorologists who say that climate change is happening, and is caused by human activity. Do we say that meteorologists are biased because they don't split 50-50 on this issue? No! (Well, some people who work for Exxon and are completely full of shit all day every day for a living probably do say such things.) The fact that so many of the people who study the climate all day every day for a living say that global warming is real and man-made lends creedence to that point of view. As it should. We don't demand that stories promoting pollution get equal time with clean air and water and non-poisoned food. Because, at least when it comes to the environment, we're not all completely insane.

If it's true that 94 percent of the people who study politics in the US all day every day for a living contribute to the Democratic Party, then that is a very powerful argument that the Democratic Party is the best one which America currently has.

Or at least it would be, if 40 to 95 percent of the American population didn't have their heads up their asses. Or if journalists dropped the "objective journalism" and instead actually shared their insights and experiences with the public as fully as they could, instead of limiting themselves to that thin sliver of what they know which "journalistic objectivity" will let them say right out loud in public. A Google search for journalists against journalistic objectivity suggests that the madness of "journalistic objectivity" is still very-well entrenched, and will be with us for a while. The nightmare of the Trump campaign has caused a few political journalists to think about their principle of "journalistic objectivity."

But they need to keep on thinking. They learn quite a lot about politics and politicians, naturally, by spending their whole careers observing them up close. Imagine what the public could do with such knowledge! But this nightmare, this huge Orwellian mistake the journalists call "journalistic objectivity" keeps the greater part of this knowledge bottled up inside the press pool. Occasionally a little bit of it will dribble out into an op-ed piece or a hot mic. But tragically, most of the most important things political journalists know die with them, because to share that knowledge would be "subjective."

Yes, journalists need to keep thinking about this, very hard, and maybe someday more than a handful of them will come to a level of wisdom regarding their own profession which in other professions is just common sense.

Imagine if the people who had the closest access to politicians, and whose job, supposedly, is to inform about politics, actually did so. Without the filter. Told us everything about the experience of seeing politics up-close. Everything includes how they feel about all that they've seen, and which politicians they support as a result.

Okay then. I'll keep doing everything I can to nudge journalists in the direction of that great Ah-ha moment.

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