Media Convergence

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Journalism Selections #6


Romenesko posted a provocative interview with journalist Mark Halperin a few days ago. The interview, conducted by Hugh Hewitt, covers some pretty controversial stuff on the part of Halperin, such as the fact that he has interns from Bob Jones University (which rose to fame for its antiquated miscegenation policies) and he thinks the media hates the military and loves abortion and gay people. However, I found his assertion that journalists who vote are hurting the U.S. to be the most outrageous, not to mention the most ludicrous.

Part of my problem with this statement is personal. I've been a political animal since the days of junior high, when I used to talk about being a civil rights attorney and I stuck Amnesty International stickers on my walls next to my pictures of Keanu Reeves and Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm very opinionated, and I find it baffling when people say they have no opinions. How can you know something and not have an opinion on it? How is that even possible? (I tend to think such people are either lying or very, very shallow.) I started voting as soon as I turned eighteen. My first choice of major, way back in the day in Oklahoma, was political science. Politics are a major part of who I am. I find it impossible to be otherwise.

So when I hear journalists like Halperin talk about how voting "opens up the question of how can I say I’m being objective, and fighting for truth, if I’m making a decision about who to vote for in a presidential race," it makes me ill. Not just because it's our civic duty and our right to have a say in who our leaders are, but also because it seems to me as though Halperin and his cadre of non-voting journalists have bought a little too deeply into the idea of absolute journalistic objectivity. I personally don't believe such a thing exists, and I feel as though the public is better served by knowing the biases and the opinions of the people producing their news. In other words, I am all about transparency.

It sounds like Hewitt agrees with me:

MH: Do you want to live in an America where there’s media that’s just all based on being pro-Bush or anti-Bush?

HH: No, I want to live in an America where there’s a media that I can understand, and understand where they’re coming from, so that I can correct for their deep-seated bias, which distorts the news, so that it drives the country in bad directions.

MH: So you reject the model which says that there can be a news organization staffed by people who aren’t biased?

HH: Yes, absolutely. I reject that model.

MH: All right. Well…

HH: I’ve rejected that model forever. I think most of America rejects that model. I think you guys in Manhattan and D.C. have persuaded yourselves that eventually, America will accept you back after shattering your credibility, and it’s just never going to happen, because we don’t believe you.



Eric Alterman is on assignment, so Salon's Eric Boehlert took over for the week. The most interesting item in this blog is a column he wrote, taking the U.S. media to task for its failure to correctly report the Rush Limbaugh/Michael J. Fox fiasco. I think he has a point. As far as I knew, Limbaugh had apologized to Fox for speculating that he might have been faking his Parkinson's in an Missouri political ad. (Just like Limbaugh faked his hearing loss from overuse of prescription painkillers? Oh, wait...) I was actually sort of surprised to hear that, but I figured, hey, maybe he realized his mistake and felt bad about it. Of course, that goes against the mantra of the right-wing pundit, which is "Never admit when you are wrong."

Well, it turns out I was right to be surprised, as Limbaugh never apologized. In fact, he said he stood by his statement. You'd never know this from any of the news media I saw or heard about the issue.



This guest column about the little war between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Ottawa press gallery was fascinating to me. It felt a bit like reading a satire of our own DC press corp - just with different names and "scrumming" (the equivalent of a journalistic ambush). Who knew the political media in Canada was as dysfunctional as our own?


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