HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Opening up the archives: JSTOR wants to tie a library to the news
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.
Opening up the archives: JSTOR wants to tie a library to the news
Its new site JSTOR Daily highlights interesting research and offers background and context on current events.
Six fresh ideas for news design from a #SNDMakes designathon
New media and legacy media came together at the second weekend-long “hackathon” hosted by the Society for News Design.
Where you get your news depends on where you stand on the issues
A new study by the Pew Research Center examines how Americans’ news consumption habits correlate with where they fall on the political spectrum.
What to read next
1020
tweets
The newsonomics of the millennial moment
The new wave of news startups is aiming at a younger audience. But do legacy media companies have a chance at earning their attention?
803A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
537Watching what happens: The New York Times is making a front-page bet on real-time aggregation
A new homepage feature called “Watching” offers readers a feed of headlines, tweets, and multimedia from around the web.
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 ➚
Vox Media
Instapaper
Frontline
Financial Times
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Outside.in
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
The Washington Post
NBCNews.com
Lens
DNAinfo
The Seattle Times