July 1, 2013

"Activists can and often do reveal the truth, but the primary objective remains winning the argument."

"That includes the argument about whether a reporter has to be politically and ideologically neutral to practice journalism."

The last 2 sentences in a NYT article by David Carr about the extent to which Glenn Greenwald should be regarded as a "journalist."

28 comments:

Balfegor said...

"That includes the argument about whether a reporter has to be politically and ideologically neutral to practice journalism."

So . . . wait, is he suggesting that this is even a debate in modern journalism? At the New York Times of all places? Leaving aside the usual complaints about Times reporters' overwhelming and unconcealed anti-Republican bias -- this is the newspaper that spent months running article after article in a demented crusade to force a golf club no one cares about to let women in. Does anyone other than NYT journalists actually think NYT journalists are actually politically and ideologically neutral? At best, they could only be "neutral" in the sense that they have convinced themselves that their political and ideological biases aren't bias but objective common sense.

That said this:

Taxonomy is important, partly because when it comes to divulging national secrets, the law grants journalists special protections that are afforded to no one else.

is patently absurd. If that's the law, it shouldn't be.

Palladian said...

"That includes the argument about whether a reporter has to be politically and ideologically neutral to practice journalism."

There is no such creature as a politically and ideologically neutral reporter, and there never was one. The idea of "Neutrality" in news emerged right around the time reporters started calling themselves "journalists". It was a lie then and remains a lie. It would be much healthier for the Republic to drop the codpiece of Neutrality and return to the way journalistic writing used to be practiced— biases declared and no apologies.

Marshal said...

I was just out of journalism school, brimming with freshly taught tenets of fairness and objectivity, and already those values were in question.

It is true the left has long been undermining objectivity so they can justify even more political activism in their "news".

Bob Ellison said...

Exactly what Balfegor and Palladian said.

edutcher said...

Sounds like the whole business about she's not a woman if she's not a feminist.

Palladian said...

That includes the argument about whether a reporter has to be politically and ideologically neutral to practice journalism.

There is no such creature as a politically and ideologically neutral reporter, and there never was one. The idea of "Neutrality" in news emerged right around the time reporters started calling themselves "journalists". It was a lie then and remains a lie


When reporters became "journolists" is when objectivity died.

Stories can be reported objectively, but we haven't seen objectivity since the Spring of '66.

viator said...

The New York Times where all the news is print to fit.

Home of Walter Duranty, Stalin's Apologist: The New York Times's Man in Moscow, among others:

Amazon

traditionalguy said...

Analysis of a speaker begins with a presumption that they are secretly against whatever they say they are strongly in favor in publicly.

They are building credibility and the presumption that they are on your side by lying in their statements.

That method is now called being a MOBY. The NYT is printing a MOBY article.

Roger J. said...

Mr Carr is doing some world class navel gazing here, and probably cursing his luck he didn't get to break the NSA story. Greenwald did. Better luck next time Carr.

And Balfegor and Palladian--great comments.

damikesc said...

Does anyone other than NYT journalists actually think NYT journalists are actually politically and ideologically neutral?

As has been pointed out before, number of Republican Presidential nominees since Eisenhower endorsed by the NYT: 0

Yes, impartial.

deborah said...

Greenwald and McArdle debate what 'freedom of the press' means:

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1540?in=00:20:51

lemondog said...

...the law grants journalists special protections that are afforded to no one else.

What is this law?

It would be much healthier for the Republic to drop the codpiece of Neutrality and return to the way journalistic writing used to be practiced— biases declared and no apologies.

Agree, but when and how does the public get the hard facts rather than just another journalistic point of view?

lemondog said...

Greenwald and McArdle debate what 'freedom of the press' means:

Haven't finished watching but seems a hard-headed and excellent debate.

Greenwald has written four books, three of which have been New York Times bestsellers: How Would a Patriot Act? (2006); A Tragic Legacy (2007), and With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, released in October 2011. He also wrote Great American Hypocrites (2008).

Greenwald has written several books critical of the Bush administration and the Republican party.

Is he writing books critical of the Obama administration and the Dems?

Scott said...

What a display hand wringing by Mr. Carr!

In straight news reportage, readers expect a professional lack of bias. But the more the writer adds context, the more that the work reflects bias. And it all qualifies as "journalism" when it's published in a journal.

Consider The Economist. It's a great weekly news magazine. And, with the exception of a few articles written by public policy celebrities, none of its content is bylined. It makes the point that the publisher alone is responsible for the editorial persona and nobody else. That's the way it should be.

I think professional journalists have been set up to take a lot of criticism to which their publishers should be responsive. Editors are everything -- Drudge proves this by taking existing online content from even the most liberal sources and giving it a conservative context that is his own.

So if The Guardian presents Greenwald is a journalist, then he's a journalist. If there's a credibility issue, it's with The Guardian and not Greenwald.

Balfegor said...

Re: lemondog

I don't know if he's writing books critical of Obama, but my impression is that he hasn't been particularly sparing in his criticisms of Obama for pretty much the same activities as he criticised Bush II. The man may be left-wing and he may be a bit of an extremist, but he's more principled and less partisan than most journalists.

elkh1 said...

"whether a reporter has to be politically and ideologically neutral to practice journalism."

If that was a requirement, the NYT and WaPo would have closed their doors before they were open.

RonF said...

On that basis there are no journalists in American. Certainly not on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN or MSNBC.

Michael said...

Palladium raises an interesting point. Instead of parsing activist and journalist we should be making a distinction between a reporter and a journalist; the latter being a writer with opinions but without the energy to report.

MikeDC said...

The implicit but unstated argument here is that if purely political or "activist" should merit less protection than other forms of speech.

Of course, this is anathema to the 1st Amendment, which explicitly couches the specific right of journalistic freedom within the broader rights of conscience and political speech it establishes.

Synova said...

"...a reporter has to be politically and ideologically neutral to practice journalism."

Darn good thing I wasn't drinking something or I'd need a new keyboard.

lemondog said...

@Balfegor, knew little to nothing about Greenwald but after reading several articles about him (seems politically agnostic, strong defender of 1st amendment & privacy), I will be reading his articles and following him on twitter.

n.n said...

We need less activists and more practitioners; less journalists and more reporters; less feelings and more objectivity. We need less freedom of the press and more freedom of information.

campy said...

I will be reading his articles and following him on twitter.

Thomas Ellers and Rick Ellenburg applaud your decision.

Hagar said...

The problem lies in pretending to be cruelly neutral when you are not.

And you must report, slant the language to your heart's content, but you must report!

And these guys don't; if the facts are not favorable to their side, it is either crickets, or "Look! A squirrel!"

chuckR said...

Journalist? Today, the term presstitute is much more applicable.

Tom said...

I assume the first amendment covered Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin did a million different things and one of them was publish opinion material. If Ben Franklin were alive today, he'd probably be Glenn Reynolds and drink puppy smoothies... But seriously, one could conceive of him blogging. Therefore, all press related first amendments apply to bloggers because the first admendment applied to Ben Franklin. Next question.

Robert Cook said...

"Mr. Greenwald is an activist who is deeply suspicious of government and the national security apparatus, and he is a zealous defender of privacy and civil rights.

"He is also a journalist."


That last adverb is redundant; as Greenwald correctly points out in Carr's column, not all activists are journalists, but all real journalists are activists. The description of Greenwald provided by Carr in the quoted paragraph ("deeply suspicious of government and the national security apparatus...etc.") is what one would expect to see as a basic starting point of the qualifications necessary to become and innate in someone who is a "journalist."

CommonHandle said...

Greenwald seems genuine in his claim that journalism is a "check on power". He's certainly been a critic of Obama when it comes to domestic and foreign spying, use of drones, and US foreign policy in general. He has called out other outlets apparent uncritical support of Obama. So, if Greenwald is biased, then it is in favor of principle or ideology rather than party, leader, or immediate self interest.

When it comes to journalism in general, I think there is a clear advantage to bias. If a writer/journalist/reporter/whatever has a little ideological "skin in the game", then they may be all the more motivated to pursue a story harder. I may want a partisan, ideological journalist going with the assumption that whatever politician, or business, or government, is doing something wrong. In turn, I may want their ideological opponents assuming that there's a problem with the story or reporting.

I think that this is essentially what's already happening. Somewhat with major outlets, but particularly with blogs.

Joe said...

"...but the primary objective remains winning the argument."

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are about freely presenting ones views with the purpose of winning an argument. Without that, these freedoms have little value.