Practicing ‘both-siderism’

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Back in June, I wrote about a growing movement among journalists to intentionally slant the news.

Let’s rephrase that. This new approach to journalism is not to merely slant the news while pretending to be unbiased, as has been too common among mainstream national media for decades. Instead, it’s now fashionable for journalists to boast about their lack of objectivity, to flaunt their bias.

Then [column, June 18, “Why ‘fake news’ is growing”] I quoted a prominent member of our profession who said, “Journalism is not stenography. … We don’t simply say, ‘Donald Trump said this. Nancy Pelosi said this.’ That should not be our role.”

“Yes,” I countered, “that is exactly what our role should be.”

Why would readers trust us if we don’t present both sides of an issue. That’s especially true in straight news stories as opposed to opinion columns like this one.

Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is on my side of this fight.

The journalism school I attended at UNC-Chapel Hill is now named for Mr. Hussman and his wife, Robena. And he got the school to post his core journalism values in the lobby.

The lead sentence: “Impartiality means reporting, editing, and delivering the news honestly, fairly, objectively, and without personal opinion or bias.”

That statement is self-evident to anyone with a functioning noggin. It is certainly self-evident to newspaper readers.

But Mr. Hussman and I — and the readers of far too many papers — are losing this battle. At UNC-CH, many in the journalism faculty are upset about those values and want them taken off the wall. (They have already been removed from the school’s website.)

In June, I shared how the Raleigh News & Observer reported that a professor at the school said Mr. Hussman’s balanced approach is “just one example of ethical thinking — not the only form of journalism that students ought to follow.” (I hope we never hire a reporter who uses any other approach.)

Then, last Friday, a Los Angeles Times columnist laid out claims that the Republican Party is now so “radicalized” that it’s wrong to try to cover both sides.

“Democrats can’t be expected to deal with these guys [Republicans] like they’re on the level,” she wrote. “Nor should journalists cover them as if they are.”

The headline even tried to turn the concept of balance into a pejorative: “both-siderism.”

Here at The Daily Record we may sometimes fall short, but Managing Editor Emily Weaver and I expect everyone on our team to always practice “both-siderism.” We know our readers are too smart to accept anything less.

• • •

As you may already know, DC Comics has changed Superman’s motto.

He will no longer fight for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” Instead, he will seek, “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow.”

And yes, right-wingers like me saw the move as more proof of an anti-America undercurrent in our culture wars. The New York Daily News this week shared a tweet from a comic book artist that confirms our suspicions.

“Changing Superman’s motto tells you that the American Way has just come to mean ‘for profit and with as little concern for humanity as possible,’” Tim Seeley wrote. “Fix that and maybe it’s worth fighting for.”

Maybe this is an overstatement, but it sounds like he’s saying that until Washington enacts cradle-to-grave socialism, America isn’t worth fighting for.

Neither Superman’s new motto nor Mr. Seeley’s tweet offer hope of our country becoming less divided.

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