Friday, August 08, 2003

Nice bit about conservatives and the press on Tapped:

Tapped is of two minds... On the one hand, we're sick of watching conservatives work the ref -- see Tim Graham's painfully tedious posts on The Corner, in which softball questions to Democrats from network anchors, newsweekly coverage of Howard Dean and replays of Democratic political ads during chat shows are all evidence of 'liberal bias.' Pace FOX, conservatives have zero interest in an objective press, they just know it pays to mau-mau those who do. When it comes to policy, press objectivity favors conservatives, who have mastered the art of the press-friendly white paper. During coverage of tax cuts and budget policy, for example, the nuttiest supply-side nostrums get equal time with the opinion of mainstream economists. If The New York Times or The Washington Post had been explicitly partisan papers, for instance, Tapped is convinced neither of President Bush's tax cuts would have passed Congress at the size they did. Debates over the effects of Bush's policies were covered not on empirical grounds but as 'he said, she said' arguments. It was a national disgrace.

But for the most part, the objective press provides reliable, accurate information to the public. And this is no small thing. As an opinion journalist and blogger, Tapped absolutely relies on these papers to get it right, even if we give them guff when they don't.
The difference here is that there's often a gulf between showing "both sides" and "getting it right". There are definitely situations where things it's all about opinion and things are too muddied to take a position, but (to use an extreme example) you wouldn't want to present the claims of the Simon Weisenthal Centre and Holocaust deniers in a "fair and balanced" manner.

Journalists seeking objectivity need to place themselves somewhere between these extremes, and need to remember that whether it serves the right or the left, their job is primarily to ferret out the truth. The newfound (and somewhat postmodern) relativisms of modern conservatives aside, that is not only possible, it's essential.

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