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True journalism put to the test

As Obama and Romney are back at it debating this week, Glenn Greenwald, writing in The Guardian, reflects on the moderator of the recent Biden-Ryan debate, and more importantly, what true journalism is.

"Numerous commentators (including me) were complimentary of the performance of Martha Raddatz as the moderator of Wednesday night's vice-presidential debate. She was assertive, asked mostly substantive questions, and covered substantial ground in 90 minutes. That's all true enough, but the questions she asked reveal something significant about American journalism in general and especially its pretense of objectivity.

For establishment journalists like Raddatz, "objectivity" is the holy grail. In their minds, it is what distinguishes "real reporters" from mere "opinionists" and, worse, partisans. As they tell it, this objectivity means they traffic only in straight facts, unvarnished by ideology or agenda. This journalistic code obligates them to speak only from what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, citing the philosopher Thomas Nagel, derides as "the View from Nowhere", a term Rosen explains this way:

'Three things. In pro journalism, American style, the View from Nowhere is a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer. Frequently it places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position 'impartial'. Second, it's a means of defense against a style of criticism that is fully anticipated: charges of bias originating in partisan politics and the two-party system. Third: it's an attempt to secure a kind of universal legitimacy that is implicitly denied to those who stake out positions or betray a point of view. American journalists have almost a lust for the View from Nowhere because they think it has more authority than any other possible stance.'
Leave aside whether that is even a desirable mindset. The reality is that, as desperately as they try, virtually no journalists are driven by this type of objectivity. They are, instead, awash in countless highly ideological assumptions that are anything but objective.

These assumptions are almost always unacknowledged as such and are usually unexamined, which means that often the journalists themselves are not even consciously aware that they have embraced them. But embraced them they have, with unquestioning vigor, and this renders their worldview every bit as subjective and ideological as the opinionists and partisans they scorn.


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