Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
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 β€” 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” β€” he did the deed in front of dozens of witnesses.

I’m not picking on the Times β€” 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.
The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
“Instead of asking you to come to us and be part of this massive room of people shouting over each other, you can bring us to you, and have us be, essentially, one more person in your conversation.”
The Conversation expands across the U.S., freshly funded by universities and foundations
The news site that uses academics as reporters and journalists as editors now boasts 19 paying member universities and is opening up posts in Atlanta (and maybe in the Bay Area).
A Boston public radio station is redesigning its site to make audio “a first-class citizen online”
But: “I’ve tried to be really disciplined about not calling this process just a redesign,” WBUR’s executive editor for digital Tiffany Campbell said. “We’ve built a brand new platform.”
What to read next
0
tweets
Newsonomics: Setting the news table for 2016
The news business hopes it won’t end up one sandwich short of a picnic as the new year’s big trends unfold.
0The sun never sets on The Times: How and why the British paper built its new weekly international app
“We’re pursuing the idea of editions everywhere. An edition is something that can be finished. When you’ve read it, you feel up-to-date; you’ve been told what you need to know for the day or the week.”
0Hot Pod: Is the next front in podcast innovation hardware?
Plus, 21st Century Fox invests in a new podcast network, and some thoughts on the second season of Serial.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
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 ➚
Seattle PostGlobe
Baristanet
Grist
Instapaper
Outside.in
Bureau of Investigative Journalism
The Washington Post
West Seattle Blog
The New Republic
The Daily Telegraph
San Diego News Network
TechCrunch