HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Why The Daily Pennsylvanian is spending $100,000 over the next two years to foster innovation
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 11, 2012, 11:11 a.m.
Reporting & Production

From Nieman Reports: Maybe it’s time to ignore the siren call of he-said, she-said journalism

Linda Greenhouse says journalists need to watch out for regression to a phony mean.

Editor’s Note: Our colleagues upstairs at Nieman Reports are out with their Summer 2012 issue, “Truth in the Age of Social Media,” which focuses on issues like verification, crowdsourcing, and citizen journalism. Over the next few days, we’ll give you a glimpse at some of their stories — but make sure to read the issue in full. In this piece, The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse challenges the old credo that a newspaper must “report all sides of a controversial issue” and leave it to the reader to find truth.

A 2009 story in The New York Times about a dispute involving Fox News described the cable network as “a channel with a reputation for having a conservative point of view in much of its programming.”

Really?

That phrase “with a reputation” put the reporter, and the newspaper, at arm’s length from the fact that the Fox News Channel does have a conservative point of view, and proudly so.

What was the purpose of that distancing phrase?

A 2011 New York Times article, typical of many others, referred to Jared Loughner as “the man accused of opening fire outside a Tucson supermarket.” Whether the Tucson shooter is guilty of murder is a legal question, but there is no question at all about his identity as the man who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people. We don’t have to say “accused of” — he did the deed in front of dozens of witnesses.

I’m not picking on the Times — the newspaper I read most carefully as well as the place I worked for 40 years. And although it is attacked, most often from the right but not infrequently from the left, for various kinds of bias, it actually, in both its performance and its ideals, epitomizes the commitment of mainstream journalism to the goals of fairness and objectivity.

This is nothing new. Adolph Ochs, the founding publisher of the modern New York Times, whose byword was “without fear or favor,” believed that a responsible newspaper should “report all sides of a controversial issue, and let the reader decide the truth,” according to a reminiscence written a couple of years ago for internal distribution to the Times staff.

In this article, I will raise some questions about the assumption behind that credo, as well as the utility, in this media-saturated and cynical age, of the siren call of “fairness and objectivity.”

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     July 11, 2012, 11:11 a.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Why The Daily Pennsylvanian is spending $100,000 over the next two years to foster innovation
The University of Pennsylvania student newspaper is looking for innovative students on its staff — and from outside the paper.
Q&A: The FT’s Gillian Tett on separating digital from print and tailoring news to new reading habits
“What is changing is people are actually saying, Okay, how are consumers, our readers, actually consuming the news?”
The newsonomics of auctioning off Digital First’s newspapers (and California schemin’)
More than 200 newspapers are up for sale — as one group, in clusters, or one by one. Where they go could have a big impact on how the industry will look in the coming years.
What to read next
751
tweets
Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
677Designer or journalist: Who shapes the news you read in your favorite apps?
A new study looks at how engineers and designers from companies like Storify, Zite, and Google News see their work as similar — and different — from traditional journalism.
596Ken Doctor: Guardian Space & Guardian Membership, playing the physical/digital continuum
The Guardian is making its biggest bet on memberships and events by renovating a 30,000 square foot space to host live activities in the heart of London.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
St. Louis Beacon
National Review
IRE/NICAR
Investigative Reporting Workshop
Backfence
Reddit
Grist
ABC News
SeeClickFix
ReadWrite
American Public Media
Flipboard