June 28th, 2013

For a brief moment in journalism school, I bought into the fairy tale that a good journalist is an objective journalist. Fortunately I came to my senses.

Matt Taibbi makes the case that all journalism is advocacy journalism

He writes:

All journalism is advocacy journalism. No matter how it’s presented, every report by every reporter advances someone’s point of view. The advocacy can be hidden, as it is in the monotone narration of a news anchor for a big network like CBS or NBC (where the biases of advertisers and corporate backers like GE are disguised in a thousand subtle ways), or it can be out in the open, as it proudly is with Greenwald, or graspingly with Sorkin, or institutionally with a company like Fox.

But to pretend there’s such a thing as journalism without advocacy is just silly; nobody in this business really takes that concept seriously. “Objectivity” is a fairy tale invented purely for the consumption of the credulous public, sort of like the Santa Claus myth. Obviously, journalists can strive to be balanced and objective, but that’s all it is, striving.

I disagree with Taibbi only in that I think he too narrowly defines the target. Certainly, claims of objectivity do serve to sooth the credulous public, but the stratagem runs much deeper. The public is a secondary target. The primary target is journalism itself. The myth is perpetuated by those who wish to blunt the pen of journalists and make them, to paraphrase Malcolm X, house journalists.

Taibbi nails the concept when he writes: As a journalist, when you start speaking about political power in the first person plural, it’s pretty much glue-factory time.

The discussion at Rolling Stone is lively…

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