Murdoch not a threat to Journalism’s “wall” between editorial pages and news coverage because it has never existed 5/3/07Posted by Steve Boriss in American Journalism Review, Editorial, Journalism, Murdoch, Opinion, Rosenstiel, Wall, Wall Street Journal.
It was not until legendary journalist Walter Lippmann invented Modern Journalism about 80 years ago that it had ever occurred to anyone that facts and opinions ought to appear in separate sections of a newspaper, much less that it was even possible to separate facts from opinion. After all, of what use are facts without an understanding of their meaning and implications, a.k.a. “opinions”? And, isn’t there an implicit opinion expressed whenever a news outlet selects one of the infinite number of possible stories and gives it the stature of “news”? For years, it has been as if highly regarded journalists such as Tom Rosenstiel (Director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and former chief Congressional correspondent of Newsweek) have been playing mind-games with us, calling our attention to opinions on front pages, but never quite using the term “opinion,” and all the while insisting that newspapers do confine their opinions to editorial pages. For example, in this transcript, Rosenstiel cites his own study showing that 50% of front page NY Times, WaPo, and LA Times stories were “not straight news stories” but were “interpretative, analytical stories of some type or another.” Perpetuating the dogma, the American Journalism Review (AJR) is claiming today, in an article that seems to “borrow” the Barbarian headline of my post from yesterday, that Murdoch’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal would threaten the paper’s wall between its “hard right” editorial pages and its supposedly objective news pages — a difference that the AJR claims has proven that this wall actually exists. Perhaps the AJR should consider the more plausible explanation — that the lack of a difference between every other papers’ supposedly objective news pages and their remarkably compatible editorial pages proves that it doesn’t.