The End of the World as We Know It?

In Slate, Michael Kinsley asks, “Would it be the end of the world if American newspapers abandoned the cult of objectivity?”

Aside from my disagreements with Kinsley over how significant a role genuine objectivity still plays in American media, as opposed to the ugly funhouse mirror version wherein each “side” of a debate is given equal time, no matter how ludicrous or untenable one side’s position may be, I think he’s right when he notes:

Abandoning the pretense of objectivity does not mean abandoning the journalist's most important obligation, which is factual accuracy. In fact, the practice of opinion journalism brings additional ethical obligations. These can be summarized in two words: intellectual honesty.
Therein lies my biggest objection to Fox News, for example. I don’t give a rat’s ass that it’s partisan; I take issue with its insistence that it isn’t partisan, despite all evidence to the contrary. If Fox News changed its tagline from “Fair and Balanced” to “Always Right” (wink wink, nudge nudge) and proudly waved an elephant-emblazoned flag, I wouldn’t complain a bit. It’s their mendacity in presenting slanted news under the guise of fairness and balance that irks.

Frankly, I think we’re long overdue for openly partisan news. This insistence on objectivity in news reporting is rather exceptionally American. Ask any Brit—they’ll tell you which is the conservative rag, and which is the moderate rag, and which is the liberal rag. And, considering that the average Brit is hell and gone more well-versed in political and cultural news than the average American, I don’t think much of an argument can be mounted that a partisan delivery undermines the conveyance of facts, if the effort is undertaken with sincerity—and that little thing called “intellectual honesty” which Kinsley mentions.

If this is, indeed, the end of the world as we know it, I feel fine.

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