Neutral reporting would require independent thinking.
Via The Hill:
Over the past several months, I’ve watched, read and heard much about the potential Armageddon facing the profession of journalism.
I’ve watched colleagues proclaim that “fake news” attacks by President Trump, crowd chants of “enemies” and the expulsion of CNN’s Jim Acosta from the White House press room pose the greatest threats to news reporting in history.
I respectfully disagree.
To be fair, there are many dangers I recognize and many fears I see as justified.
Forty-five members of the news media have died in the line of duty this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The death of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of a Saudi government seeking to silence his voice is as horrific as it is unconscionable. The mail bombs sent to media outlets also are reprehensible and chilling.
But journalism, sadly, has laid to rest many a brave reporter, here and on foreign soil, and it managed to keep a neutral light of disclosure burning bright in far more difficult times than today.
We journalists have more freedom, more reach, and more ability to inform today than ever before. But with those advantages comes an even greater responsibility to the public, one I fear is being denigrated by journalists who substitute opinion for facts and emotion for dispassion.
Beyond the killings, the threats, and the vitriol, what most threatens journalism today is the behavior of its own practitioners.
We have become too full of our own opinions, too enthralled with our own celebrity, too emotionally offended by warranted and unwarranted criticism, and too astray from the neutral, factual voice our teachers in journalism school insisted we practice.[…]
nstead of facts, many journalists today trade in supposition and opinion. Instead of dispassionate neutral coverage, many have offered emotional rants that border on disrespect. Instead of covering all sides of the story, entire news organizations have chosen to pick one side over another.
And Donald Trump’s broadsides have only forced reporters to hunker down even more with these harmful practices.
This self-destructive behavior was on full display this week as professional journalists strayed far from their neutral voice in reporting on — and simultaneously condemning — Trump’s statement on why he chose to maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia despite its role in murdering the journalist Khashoggi.
Fox News anchor Shepard Smith declared: “President Trump stands with Saudi Arabia. Today the president insulted the murder victim and sided with the Saudis, who said our CIA is wrong.” On CNN, anchor Brianna Keilar suggested there was little difference in Trump’s annual rite of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey and his treatment of Saudi Arabia.
“And there you have it — President Trump pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey, the annual tradition. Peas is the name of this turkey,” Keilar said on “CNN Newsroom.”
“And just the most unusual dichotomy here, as this comes on the heels of a statement that the president has put out essentially pardoning Saudi Arabia and the crown prince and the king there, despite what his intel community is expected to put out in a report today that Saudi Arabia is behind, that these leaders of Saudi Arabia are behind the killing of a Washington Post journalist,” she added.
Such rhetorical flair may make the journalist emotionally satisfied for a moment. But the injection of opinion and insinuation and condemnation disserves the public for a far longer time, depriving viewers and readers of a neutral set of facts upon which to make their own decisions and opinions.
With rare exception, the wise elders of the profession have not spoken up forcefully enough to denounce this creeping cancer of POV journalism, nor stem the demise of the profession’s core values of fairness, accuracy, precision and neutrality. In fact, some are gleefully cheering on some of the bad-boy behaviors.