Objectivity – yeah, right

My stomach churns when I read newspaper articles like this one, where the NYT continues its never-ending slide into squirrelly neutrality. They’re so obsessed with putting up a detached, professional front when they’re players in the political game, too. The end result is the default “Paid for by the RNC” sticker, which they never bother to attach.

C’mon. Either don’t bother reporting on what amounts to knee-jerk spin-doctoring, or properly paint Bush and the GOP as shallow opportunists that enjoy taking credit for “good news” that they’re not even remotely responsible for. Both options have more journalistic spine than this article’s lofty hand-wringing, which shamelessly front-loads the Republican position and basically hands them a free breather without having to work for it.

I’ve never trusted newspapers much by themselves (and especially the NYT, ever since they used Chalabi as a source for WMD info) Something resembling truth only emerges after reading many different takes on the same subject, which is the reason I like Google News.

But I think my disillusionment really stems from politics always coming down to “politics,” rather than useful, constructive debate or the execution of careful, thoughtful planning. I used to be fascinated by all the mudslinging, the candidate handling, the canned speeches and the widespread hypocrisy that makes up American politics.

I guess I’m not as easily entertained anymore, and my concept of rhetoric as a neutral tool has lead to dark thoughts. Do the writers and editors at the NYT know what their precious objectivity costs at the end of the day? Probably so, which makes the entire arrangement even worse.

Am I saying the old wall between the editorals and the news should just be torn down already? I don’t know. The web has certainly given advocacy journalism a boost in the last 5 or 6 years, showing that a concerned citizen with a blog can make a difference, and that one can “serve the public interest” without having to be neutral.

Perhaps newspapers still hold on because of the false comfort zone that being a “paper of record” creates. I personally think all journalists should feel free to advocate and editoralize. It might not improve reporting much, but it would at least demolish the facade of objectivity. Then again, if papers lose their “authority”… but that’s something that I, at least, don’t see them as currently possessing.

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