Sunday, August 08, 2004

Unity and group think

Prof. Jay Rosen takes on the Unity journalists' group's unbalanced appreciation for Pres. Bush and Sen. Kerry.

Unity, a group of minority journalists, wildly applauded Kerry's speech and were barely civil for Bush's. Rosen has a thoughtful contribution on the event, and I recommend reading his entry, and his blog, for anyone interested in the practice of journalism.

I want to comment on one small part of it. He lists a number of "group think"s going on at the event, and here's one:
Group think among conservatives says that it's right to slam journalists for being liberal when they deny it; and it's right to slam them when they show it. Too easy? Not to the American right.

I can't speak for "conservatives," except for one (that would be me), but I don't slam journalists for being liberal. Sometimes I find it tiresome to read their arguments, because I've heard them so many times before. And I don't mind journalists' showing their opinion as citizens--or even as reporters.

The problem is when, in the context of a news story, reporters choose the stupidest representative to speak for their opposition, if they allow any representative to speak at all; when editors deem stories that don't back up their position to be non-stories; when reporters make huge errors of fact in prominent news stories that are corrected in a Corrections column, on page 27D, weeks later, if they are corrected at all.

These things have nothing to do with reporters' stating their opinion on a subject (or cheering a candidate). In fact, maybe it would be better if in the third paragraph, the reporter said, "This reporter supports the candidacy of John Kerry." It would remove the illusion of balance, and it would be better if the public didn't hold that illusion.

All this particular conservative asks for is journalistic integrity, which doesn't require that journalists renounce their citizenship, only that they carry on the argument with honesty and with awareness that they are in a position of power and that their ethics require them to use that power responsibly.

No comments: