January 28, 2013

"The journalism in these pages will strive to be free of party ideology or partisan bias..."

"... although it will showcase passionate writing and will continue to wrestle with the primary questions about our society."
Our purpose is not simply to tell interesting stories, but to always ask why these stories matter and tie their reporting back to our readers. We hope to discern the hidden patterns, to connect the disparate facts, and to find the deeper meaning, a layer of understanding beyond the daily headlines.
So writes Chris Hughes about the redesign of The New Republic, which I was cranky about yesterday, because it kicked off with a kissy interview with Barack Obama.

I must say, I'd never paid any attention to Chris Hughes before, and I didn't yesterday until pushed by my commenters. On the evidence of the interview he and Franklin Foer did with the President, I saw him as another media suckup doing Democratic Party politics under cover of journalism. Seeing this "free of party ideology or partisan bias" business now only inclines me to scoff. If that's what you wanted as your brand, why did you lead off with that interview?

But I realize I need to get up to speed on this Chris Hughes character. I didn't even bother to name him in yesterday's post, and I've only just made a tag for him now. Sorry, I didn't bother watching "The Social Network." To the extent that I follow celebrities, I'm not particularly drawn to new media businessmen. I can keep track of Mark Zuckerberg up to a point, but I've never paid attention to the lesser Facebookians.

Here's a HuffPo article from last March about Hughes's purchase of TNR, noting that he was "a key player in President Obama's online organizing efforts in 2008." Why would we expect this man — who's only 29, by the way — to strive to be free of party ideology or partisan bias? I've got to assume the striving is toward seeming to be free of party ideology and partisan bias, because that's what journalists always say they are doing when they have ideological and partisan goals.

Based on that interview with Obama, I'd say Hughes is not striving that hard or he's not good at what he's striving to do or — most likely — he only wants to appeal to Democrats, so he only wants to do enough to seem to be free of party ideology and partisan bias to Democrats. Is this enough to make our target audience feel good about the nourishment they're getting from this source? The good feeling is some combination of seeming like professional journalism while satisfying their emotional needs that are intertwined their political ideology and love of party.

73 comments:

Carol said...

Damn, TNR used to be my favorite read, long ago when they used writers like Mickey Kaus and Charles Krauthammer. Even when Sullivan had it, it was readable. Maybe I was just more liberal then, but I recall it was considered at the right end of the left spectrum.

DADvocate said...

It's the latest meme for Obamaites. I heard Anderson Cooper say this, "Again, we're not reporting on this based on politics. We are just looking at facts... " and thought it was the most absurd thing he's ever said. I've heard him repeat the meme several times now, as if saying it makes it so.

Funny to hear this from Mr. Teabagger himself. Who, as it turns out, quite likely has first hand experience at teabagging.

Pogo said...

Another crony capitalist at the fascist trough.

So by free of party ideology or partisan bias", Hughes means they won't admit it.

In truth they have both kinds of collectivists, communists and New Deal types.



Chip S. said...

How is he free of "partisan bias"? Simple.

Ever notice how Dem senators up for re-election tend to adopt positions that make them seem like centrist moderates who can "reach across the aisle"?

That's "partisan bias". There'll be none of that bullshit in TNR.

Jay said...

Why do these people continue engaging in such silliness?

I mean, they really believe that they are not biased and merely "moderate"

How bizarre.

Shouting Thomas said...

I think, Althouse that you are (probably deliberately, as is your style) ignoring the obvious.

The emerging party line from the Democrats is that policy differences are a thing of the past. The only possible reason for policy reasons to exist is because stupid people are bigots.

All disagreement about policy is stupid bigotry and will be, also, in the future.

Next up after Obama, a Democratic female president. Opposition to any of her policies will be misogyny.

After that, a Democratic gay president. Opposition to him will be homophobia.

All policy issues are settled. All that remains to be determined is who is, and isn't, a bigot. This is the Democratic strategy, which is presumed to be unbeatable. So, the next opportunity for disagreement on policy should occur about 2036.

sydney said...

I'll miss The New Republic. It was a good source of information once upon a time. Is there any American news media that is reliable, or do we have to read other nations' newspapers to get the truth about our own country?

Seeing Red said...

If he wants to strive to be free:

1. Don't interfere

2. Hire a few conservatives.

YoungHegelian said...

Don't necessarily put all the blame on Hughes. Franklin Foer has been in the business a long time, and he's a scumbag.

It was Foer who greenlighted that awful hit-piece on the Army in Iraq that TNR had to walk back because the source turned out not only to have a relationship with a TNR staffer, but, far worse, turned out to be a serial liar.

Foer couldn't bring himself to just out say "I fucked up" like the TNR editorial staff did before with S. Glass. He went all mealy-mouth rather than just say "we got taken YET AGAIN".

SteveR said...

"free of party ideology or partisan bias"

By being cemented in ideology and partisan bias. But its the same thought process the media always uses. Its only noticed and acknowledged when its not inside the playbook (e.g. FNC).

Scott said...

The popular blog The Moderate Voice tried doing something similar, but ended up liberal-leftish.

I think it's possible and desirable to have a non-partisan persona when reporting straight news. But in discussing public policy, if you don't have a bias, you don't have a viewpoint.

I think Huges is either being coy, or he hasn't thought it through.

mccullough said...

People who are free of partisan ideology will demonstrate it.

G Joubert said...

Why do these people continue engaging in such silliness?

Three reasons come to mind: Because it sounds good. Add, it's what people (many anyway) want to hear. And, they themselves want to believe it.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I let my subscription to TNR lapse a long time ago and the only thing I miss is the crossword puzzle.

William said...

Some Democrats think that their open criticism of the party for being insufficiently militant in its support of, say, post natal abortions shows how far above ideology and partisan politics they are.

Synova said...

To be honest, I sort of wish that more journalists would give an interview where the point of it was to facilitate the interviewee getting to say what they feel it is important to say.

I'm reminded of Gen Honore and his "stuck on stupid" comment. The antagonistic model of journalism may have it's place, but it's not automatically best. Getting information out that people need to know is also important. This is obvious during a natural disaster, but I think it's also true during political campaigns.

Being informative about, oh, Sarah Palin, isn't quite the same as "sucking up" and it's not quite the same as "tough questions" and it's certainly not a case of the interviewee deciding where the questioning goes if harping on some stupid triviality (war on women!) is favored over getting a candidate to expand on their ideas about the economy.

A "softer" interview style may well do what this guy wants, allowing a bit more depth and connection in the answers. Bias and partisanship comes in if the publication doesn't give the same friendly treatment to other points of view.

tim maguire said...

As you well know, only consertavism is a bias. Liberalism is just plain common sense. I have no doubt Mr. Hughes is fully dedicated to being free of partisan bias.

Synova said...

You know who gives good non-partisan interviews with his ideological opposites?

Glenn Beck.

furious_a said...

Hughes, who tied the knot with longtime boyfriend Sean Eldridge last year, said, "There are tens of thousands of couples in New Jersey that can’t share their love and be recognized under the law because of that decision."

He went on to note, "I’m not a single issue voter...


Yeah, right. He's Andrew Sullivan with a bazillion dollars to burn.

Henry said...

Party ideology is the stupidest ideology. Partisan bias is the most boring. I prefer philosophical ideologies and individual bias. If TNR can give voice to more weirdos and malcontents they might get somewhere.

The problem with most journalism is not the bias, but the herd.

furious_a said...

Apparently TNR hasn't yet run out of sugar daddies, unlike Newsweek.

Richard Dolan said...

Hughes is married to a guy who was a delegate to the DNC in 2012, and both are heavily involved in Dem politics in NY, especially the political push for same sex marriage. Non-partisan must be Facebook code for not Republican.

As a marketing strategy for TNR, the 'non-partisan' pose in Hughes' letter makes some sense. My image of a TNR reader (I subscribed for many years but let it a decade or ago) is someone who thinks of himself as a non-ideological pragmatist looking for 'what works,' while being absolutely confident that 'what works' excludes everything that Paul Ryan or his colleagues in the Republican House majority might come up with.

virgil xenophon said...

@synova

But it's Glenn Beck that is the crazy one, right?

virgil xenophon said...

Both ST and Richard Dolan score
bulls-eyes..

McTriumph said...

Chris Hughes is impressive.
Education, did it, Ivy League.
Internet, did it, FaceBook.
Politics, did it, Obama's presidency.
Gay marriage, did it, I can't remember his husband's name.
Publishing, did it, purchased TNR, most likely to pound same sex marriage up America's ass.
Bid for America's #1 gay comedian, done.

Jerome said...

" but I recall it was considered at the right end of the left spectrum."

That's because Hertzberg was not down with the plan to drive the Israelis into the sea.

ricpic said...

It's a law (I was going to write almost a law but I've never seen it broken) that liberals MUST deny their slant. The new New Republic is going to be just as slant left as the old New Republic despite all the hogwash about trying, trying s-o-o-o hard to be neutral.

Levi Starks said...

Question 1) Do you consider NPR to be "free of party ideology, and partisan bias"?
They think they are.
Question 2) will TNR be to the Right or the Left of NPR?

EMD said...

The best option would be to do an entire point-counterpoint website or publication, with each "side' taking up the argument on every issue.

Do dueling interviews and debates (maybe bloggingheads-esque, but shorter and more interesting)

Bob R said...

TNR was and is a liberal/progressive magazine. The generous interpretation of the quote is that the Democratic party is seen only as a means toward liberal ends - not an end in itself.

Anthony said...

I was going to make a snarky comment that they will be free of (conservative) ideology and (Republican) partisan bias.

But other commenters have me thinking something I've believed for a long time: Most liberals really don't think they're liberal, just smart. Hence, anyone that disagrees with them must be stupid and/or partisan. They're so un-self aware they may as well be ghosts.

Anthony said...

BTW, I'll throw out Ray Suarez as a decent interviewer, at least when he was back at Talk of the Nation. He would always be well informed about whatever issue was at hand, and would most often be as skeptical with liberals as conservatives. I mean, you knew he was a lefty, but he did a good job at being fair.

Brew Master said...

1) All people are biased on all questions, even ones that they have not thought about before. Their inherent views will color information they absorb.

2) Those who profess to not have a bias when reporting are either...
A) Self Delusional
B) Lying

3) Up front bias is more honest than false professions of neutrality, and lead to better information communication, regardless of the bias.

4) If you do not examine sources of biased information that are opposite of your own, you will be neither well informed nor able to effectively advocate for your positions.

In short, be proud of your Biases, and be able to defend them! Being biased doesn't mean you are wrong, acknowledging them makes you honest.

bpm4532 said...

Hughes is just a rich guy who lucked into money by working for a company that made it big, so he gets to spend what he wants on his speech rights. There are many like him in the same industry with even better skills that never made so much money.

edutcher said...

Hmmm, how does journalism tie in with the need to "tell interesting stories"?

Paul said...

Chris Hughes is about as "free of party ideology" as Joseph Goebbels was.

In fact most of the MSM is about like that to.

furious_a said...

But it's Glenn Beck that is the crazy one, right?

You don't want to end up on his Whiteboard.

gerry said...

Progs are moderates.

Didn't you know that?

Heck, I criticized the new Martin Luther King monument as being a socialist-realist derivation, and was called a racist.

That's where we are today.

Revenant said...

The New Republic has been a small-circulation journal of the progressive left for 99 years. Why buy that and make it non-ideological? Even Hughes' claim was believable it would still be silly.

Tibore said...

"The journalism in these pages will strive to be free of party ideology or partisan bias..."

WHAAAAAAAA HAA HA HA HA HA!! WHOOOO HE HE HEEEEEEE! AAAAAAAAAAH, HAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA....

(*sniffs*) Oh man, that was good...

Palladian said...

Lucky rich kid buys hobby magazine, interviews hobby president.

Coketown said...

Statements like these remind me of the opening disclaimer on South Park, where they explain that all characters, even those based on real-life celebrities, are entirely fictional. And, obviously, the celebrity-based characters are not entirely fictional.

"All perceived bias found in these pages, even if committed intentionally, is entirely accidental."

When you have to a) preface the re-launch of a magazine, b) qualify virtually every newspaper correction, and c) have your paper's editor write periodic op-eds, all of which insist your publication is and will be free of bias, and any perceived bias and the fact it always cuts one way is purely coincidental, the general reader will suspect that, no, these statements are not sincere, and are made as brazenly and tongue-in-cheek as those made by the producers of South Park.

And, really, such statements just highten the general reader's sensitivity to the bias woven throughout the publication. If a paper really is free of bias, the editor wouldn't find it necessary to consistently insist as much.

traditionalguy said...

This phenomena is the reason for the popularity of NPR. The voices are really nice humans and who hates that.

What I find annoying is a new style of female announcers voices/personas that sound like 5 year old children. I suppose it is to make us believe them, since 5 year old children are too innocent to lie. But we see you, and you are 35.

edutcher said...

Palladian said...

Lucky rich kid buys hobby magazine, interviews hobby president.

Thread winner, especially the last part.

Coketown said...

Not that I'm complaining. It's not like the media in this country are successfully pulling a fast one on the general population. "Ha, ha, ha--we claim we're objective and they BELIEVVVVE it! Ha ha ha we are so sneaky!"

No. Everyone knows the media in this country is largely full of biased horseshit. Their words are taken with a grain of salt, if they're taken at all. The dire situation of print media suggests the whole industry is getting what it deserves. The jerks.

firstHat said...

In my world, TNR stands for Trap, Neuter, Release. Not a bad recommendation here, I think.

Martin said...

Personnel is policy, and with suck-ups like Chris Hughes and Franklin Foer, I don't understand why ANYBODY takes seriously their statements about being free of "party ideology". They are in-the-tank Obama-Pelosi Democrats and the only question is why they feel the need to claim to be anything else. Trying to differentiate themselves from The Nation?

Martin said...

Personnel is policy, and with suck-ups like Chris Hughes and Franklin Foer, I don't understand why ANYBODY takes seriously their statements about being free of "party ideology". They are in-the-tank Obama-Pelosi Democrats and the only question is why they feel the need to claim to be anything else. Trying to differentiate themselves from The Nation?

Pragmatist said...

So the only way you can be "free of bias" is to do another hatchet job on Obama and cater to the haters? Lets see....Media that is not only slanted to the Right but actually the paid Agit-Prop organ of the Right is considered "fair and balanced" and media that disagrees with that brand is "The Liberal Media"? Roger Ailes is fair but anyone who disagrees with him is biased? There are NO unbiased voices anywhere...just different degrees of bias and different degrees of disclosure.

From Inwood said...

The New Yorker had a review of a biography of longtime CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, which “examines the events and myths that established the newscaster as the “most trusted man....”

The reviewer states that “Journalism & history are about getting things right. But the past has many uses and one of them is to inspire the present. People in any profession like to create an imaginary past, populated by the Ones Who Came Before. Sometimes, we figure these people to be narrow-minded fools and feel motivated to demonstrate our own superior tolerance and sophistication. More honorably if not more accurately, we imagine our predecessors as nobler and braver than our own smaller selves – as men and women who stood up for principle and by their righteousness moved the world."

Er, maybe, since Leftist propaganda is in the DNA of most Historians & Journalists, what we need is something along the lines of Heinlein’s “Fair Witnesses” who I understand (not having read the novel – Stranger in a Strange Land) are individuals trained to observe events and report exactly what they see and hear, making no extrapolations or assumptions & prohibited from drawing conclusions about what they observe.

Nah.

Marshal said...

Pragmatist said...
So the only way you can be "free of bias" is to do another hatchet job on Obama and cater to the haters?


The media that ran a fake memo as an October surprise trying to inhibit the election chances of the President was free of bias? Probably so to someone who defines "haters" as anyone who votes against his preferred candidate.

Coketown said...

There are NO unbiased voices anywhere...just different degrees of bias and different degrees of disclosure.

This is everyone's hangup. For TNR's new owner to proclaim his publication will be free of ideological and partisan bias, and then run that fawning Obama interview, shows either willful non-disclosure as to the publication's biases. Nobody would have a problem if he came out and said, "Yeah, our audience is center-left Democrats, so we're going to flavor our coverage to flatter their sensibilites and avoid causing offense."

Amartel said...

Pravda.

bbkingfish said...

"... liberals MUST deny their slant."

That's right. "Fair and balanced."

Steve Koch said...

Chris Hughes is obviously a lefty, he was instrumental (when he was only 24) in getting Obama elected. His lie that TNR will not be biased politically is the standard lie that ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NYT, etc. all say while acting as lefty propagandists. They say this lie to appeal to indy voters.

What is far more interesting to me re: Hughes and TNR is why did he buy TNR and what does he plan to do with it? His current niche is political marketing via social media. Does he plan to turn TNR into a social media vehicle to reach the masses (like Puffington Host) or does he want to establish his policy bona fides with lefty elites via the TNR? I'm guessing and hoping that it is the latter goal that he is trying to make happen.

Tom said...

Althouse, I think you forgot the Bullshit tag. Just sayin'

jeyi said...

Apologies for re-posting this from an Althouse blog thread of a coupla days ago:

Chris Hughes, who also got a ten-minute video tongue bath in today’s online NY Times, regarding his great plans for the venerable New Republic –which he’s owned outright since last March– was, of course, one of the original FaceBook developers which led in due course to him becoming a wealthy fellow indeed.

He was also in charge, during the run-up to the 2008 elections, of all the Social Media projects at the Obama for President campaign’s national HQ in Chicago.

I have much to say on Mr. Hughes’s likely responsibility for the outrageous DOS attack organized by the Obama for President HQ in Chicago just prior to the 2008 election on Milt Rosenberg’s WGN radio interview with Stanley Kurtz on the failed Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) educational initiative, of which Obama was the Executive Director, and the role in the CAC of the despicable Bill Ayers. See:

http://www.sethathirath.com/chris_hughes.pdf

turtle said...

A person demonstrates that they are partizan the very moment they say (or feel the need to say) they are not.
Non-partisanship (as well as partizanship) is self evident and needs no proclaimation for illumination.

Palladian said...

So the only way you can be "free of bias" is to do another hatchet job on Obama and cater to the haters?

LOL. Criticism of the president makes you a hater, yo! Don't be all up in his grille, nigga!

eddie willers said...

In truth they have both kinds of collectivists, communists and New Deal types.

"We play both kinds of music.....Country and Western."

Synova said...

I mentioned Glenn Beck because of that interview he'd done with the fellow that gave out the 3-D printer pattern for a high capacity AR-15 magazine.

Beck and he were obviously not politically similar... the fellow he was interviewing seemed to flirt with left-anarchy. But Beck seemed interested in knowing how the guy thought, and why, and had he considered different moral issues, but he listened and led the guy to explain and gave him time to answer and it wasn't ever antagonistic.

Beck is clearly partisan, if only partisan to his own opinions. But he doesn't pretend he's not. And maybe that's why he can have a conversation with this fellow about 3-d printing or with Penn Jillette and it's respectful and informative because he's not trying to shut the other person down.

eddie willers said...

This phenomena is the reason for the popularity of NPR. The voices are really nice humans and who hates that.

Fox News = Four conservatives yelling at one liberal.

MSNBC = Four liberals yelling at one conservative.

NPR = Five liberals quietly agreeing with each other.

David said...

Andover, Harvard and net worth of $500 million.

What's his fair share?

Pay up, Chris.

Truckee Man said...

It's called lying. lying to his readers and himself.

Alex said...

From the film "Citizen Kane":

Kane's Declaration of Principles:

"I will provide the people of this city with a daily paper that will tell all the news honestly. I will also provide them with a fighting and tireless champion of their rights as citizens and as human beings."

Alex said...

Yellow journalism or partisan papers go back to the very founding. The idea of a bias-free media is a brand new one.

gadfly said...

When you are incapable of determining that the words that you write are lies, then you are either naive or corrupt, and 29-year-old writers are capable of being either.

However Chris Hughes has been rubbing elbows with corrupt liberal politicians for more than five years - so he is corrupt and his gay lifestyle will never bring him to understand conservatives.

PETER V. BELLA said...

Liars lie. Plain and simple.

Methadras said...

Lies, damned lies, and journalism.

Rose said...

"The journalism in these pages will strive to be free of party ideology or partisan bias..."

Could it be that, like some who worked closely with John Edwards, he has come to see that Obama is a fraud, and empty vessel, who has betrayed everything he claims he stands for?

Could it be that this attempt to move towards 'fair and balanced' is recognition that liberal ain't where it's at anymore?

DEEBEE said...

Chris, must in his mind deem his politics to be universal, thus above party. Thus his claim makes absolute sense -- to him

Brew Master said...

And, for your viewing pleasure, just to cap this off nicely.

TNR retweets fake picture of Obama skeet shooting - to prove he shoots, as they reported.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/mag-pushes-fake-picture-obama-skeet-shooting_698730.html

TOTALLY unbiased!

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