The Washington Post suggests that newsrooms must shun 'objectivity' to build trust
Leonard Downie, Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post and professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, recently attempted to make a case against objectivity in the pages of the Washington Post.
You read that correctly: a senior newsman is now against objectivity.
His January 30 piece launches as follows:
Increasingly, reporters, editors, and media critics argue that the concept of journalistic objectivity is a distortion of reality.
They point out that the standard was dictated over decades by male editors in predominantly White newsrooms and reinforced their own view of the world.
Even objectivity is being examined through the prism of race and being shunned or attacked because these standards were founded by Caucasians.
Will Downie also shun travel by airplanes, or usage of the light bulb, or the telephone, or the refrigerator, and any other amenities because they were invented by Caucasian men?
Downie himself is an octogenarian Caucasian man.
Perhaps this racist act of self-flagellation is meant to appease woke groups in academia and the media.
How unfortunate that a veteran has become a follower of the groupthink rather than a standard-bearer of at least an effort toward objectivity who can enlighten everyone about the righteous path.
The piece continues:
[P]ursuing objectivity can lead to false balance or misleading "bothsidesism" in covering stories about race, the treatment of women, LGBTQ+ rights, income inequality, climate change and many other subjects.
And, in today's diversifying newsrooms, they feel it negates many of their own identities, life experiences and cultural contexts, keeping them from pursuing truth in their work.
While reporting, it is essential to know all possible perspectives before presenting the facts. In the past, that was Journalism 101.
If A slaps B, a report based on B's version of the events is incomplete. Reporters must also interview A, witnesses, and those who previously knew A and B. Perhaps we learn that B was relentlessly harassing A, causing A to strike him out of frustration. This isn't a defense of A, but essential context for facts.
This is a standard that should prevail for all reporting, irrespective of the identity of the individuals being covered.
Downie then claims that under the leadership of editors such as Ben Bradlee, his generation of journalists began challenging the powerful.
He cites the Watergate story that he worked on, claiming that it "spawned widespread national investigative reporting that continues today."
Downie claims that all through his career as an editor, he never understood what "objectivity" meant and didn't consider it a standard.
This reveals why the WaPo has faltered so badly.
Perplexingly, Downie claims that his goals were instead "accuracy, fairness, nonpartisanship, accountability and the pursuit of truth."
Does he not realize that all of these lead to objectivity?
Downie writes that he followed Bradlee by insisting that WaPo journalists abstain from political activity or advocacy.
But he forgets to mention that Bradlee himself was very close to JFK. Perhaps Bradlee's pro-Democrat stance motivated him to target Republican President Nixon, who had won an election by a landslide, decimating his Democrat opponent.
Downie complains that the mainstream news media are coping with "digital disruption, along with increasing competition from misinformation on cable television and the internet."
What he is actually upset about is their lack of monopoly over the news narrative.
Downie went on to unknowingly expose his bias by citing every overstated spurious claim usually made by far-left MSNBC pundits to claim that America is going through an upheaval.
... discrimination against and abuse of women; persistent racism and white nationalism; police brutality and killings; the treatment of LGBTQ+ people; income inequality and social problems; immigration and the treatment of immigrants; the causes and effects of climate change; voting rights and election inequality; and even the very survival of our democracy.
Downie then consulted with his colleagues in the business, such as WaPo executive editor Sally Buzbee, the San Francisco Chronicle editor-in-chief Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, USAToday editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, Los Angeles Times editor Kevin Merida, and CBS's Claudia Milne, etc., to confirm his bias.
They all refer to the importance of diversity of sex, ethnic origins, race, culture, LGBTQ+, etc. to replace objectivity.
Downie also recommends a diversity of economic, educational, geographic, and social backgrounds.
As always, they exclude the most important kind of diversity, which is the diversity of perspective.
The only diversity of thinking is among left, far left, and socialist.
This is because being factual is no longer the goal.
In the current climate, if they discover a colleague who is liberal but isn't as committed to the cause, that colleague is harassed and purged out of their system.
Dissenting views are forbidden in modern newsrooms.
These outlets are mouthpieces for the Democrats and willingly and knowingly carried hoaxes such as Trump-Russia collusion and the January 6 insurrection and various other hoaxes about Trump.
Hiring Trump-supporters would resolve the problem, as they would debunk all their hoaxes.
The goal wasn't and isn't to report facts, but to force Trump out of office and now to force Trump out of politics.
But the likes of Downie fail to see this as a bias. In their sanctimonious minds, Trump is the problem, and it is their duty to use all means possible to force him out of politics.
One of the experts said that journalists should not be activists. If this were standard, most of the mainstream media newsrooms would be rendered empty.
Downie concedes that "some mission-driven operations might well choose to allow social media and political activity with their core values."
He fails to comprehend that "mission-driven operations" isn't an anomaly, but a norm.
Since matters have gone haywire, we should revisit the fundamentals.
Objectivity is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "considering only facts and without being influenced by personal feelings or opinions."
Objectivity must always be the guiding principle while reporting.
Since it is humanly impossible to be completely objective because reporting will be tainted by perspective, the editorial team gets involved to ask the right questions to ensure that the content is as factual as possible.
Alas, objectivity is no longer considered an aspirational goal.
While claiming to prescribe remedial measures to improve reporting in the mainstream media, Downie unknowingly revealed the issues that plague it.
The modern newsroom is an echo chamber from top to bottom, where each attempts to outdo the next to demonstrate loyalty to the Democrat party and other far-left causes.
The media have also developed a subscriber base that pays to be an extension of the echo chamber.
But they just do not see it and think they aren't going far enough in their partisan display.
They are attacking objectivity, which should be the basis and fundamental goal of reporting.
The self-righteous such as Downie seldom demonstrates any self-awareness, nor do they comprehend the irony of their words or actions.
As news consumers, you have no option but to assume that all that you read and watch in the mainstream media is false until proven true.
Abstaining totally from the mainstream media may also be a good idea. It is better to be uninformed than misinformed.
Image: Twitter screen shot.