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The future of political news might be neither fair nor balanced. Good. 3/14/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Balance, Fairness.
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Jay Rosen today focuses on a rare and refreshing mainstream journalist who argues for a more political, “activist” press, Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. Like me, Rosen is sympathetic to his argument, as both of us have concluded that it is impossible for journalists to be objective and maddening to readers when they falsely claim to be. Also like me, Rosen believes that it would be a positive to have news outlets that offer informed displays of political conviction, and are participants in the political debates of our time — as long as they have the courage to admit that they are indeed participants. Rosen believes progress can be made if there is a thought movement to uncouple fairness, which he believes is needed, from neutrality, which he thinks is not.

But if neutrality isn’t necessarily desirable, is it possible “fairness” isn’t either? In my view, a partisan news outlet can demonstrate “fairness” in two ways — by admitting their biases to readers and by providing an honest presentation of opposing views. But in debates, which we consider to be fair contests, would we expect either side to admit their biases or give an honest presentation of the other’s views? Of course, it would not be good for either side to tell lies, but that involves a concept called “honesty,” not fairness. So bring it on, and let’s hear from a multitude of partisan news sources competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. As the saying goes, “politics ain’t beanbag.” Nor is citizenship. Nor should be news.

Comments»

1. Brian Cubbison - 3/14/08

Along those lines, I’ve often wished for an RSS feed that combined, or listed side by side, this

http://thefutureofnews.com/?s=times&searchbutton=go%21

and

http://headsuptheblog.blogspot.com/search/label/fox

2. Fresh Air - 3/15/08

Not sure I really buy this idea. Isn’t there a place for a CSPAN of newspapers? Doesn’t informed debate require people to be, you know, informed?

It’s true we had “yellow” journalism and all that, but we also had remarkably fact-filled newspapers during the Civil War. Go back and read the war stories. They are free, for the most part, of hyperbole. Their are plain accounts of battles, unadorned with “analysis” by deep thinking scribes.

I don’t think an openly propagandizing newspaper can be relied upon to present plain facts. As bad as our press is, you can extract facts from it–in most cases anyway. Get rid of the supposed “analysis” and you’re left with just the facts. Yes, these can be selectively presented. But it would be much better than the tendentious crap we get now.

How about just having a little flag next to each byline indicating whether the reporter voted for Bush or Kerry last time?

3. Steve Boriss - 3/15/08

Fresh Air, I’m of the opinion that just about all of the bias in news happens in the process of selecting stories/angles. People will choose to believe that different things are significant, and should be allowed to. Even CSPAN is center-left biased if it is selecting the same series of center-left stories selected by the NYTimes/WaPo/AP. In regards to how this can work, and still get quality news, I’d ask you to think about how this works in London. See my Pajamas Media article about that here.

4. Athena Monroe - 11/12/08

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