It’s not possible to be a fair, objective political reporter in American today.
Oh, you can try. You can have the best intentions in the world. You can do intense research, get at least two sources for everything, etc. But if your report treats both sides equally, then each will accuse you of favoring the other. And if, because the facts warrant, your story puts one party in a bad light, then obviously you’ll be considered biased in favor of the other side.
As a result, according to Washington political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, the biggest story of the 2012 election went unreported. The biggest story, bigger than the candidates themselves, was that the Republican Party had run completely off the rails and veered to the extreme right. It went unreported because good journalists and their editors did not want to appear biased.
That’s the theory, anyway, and it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Dan Froomkin at the Huffington Post quotes Orenstein:
If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they’ve got to know what’s going on. And if the story that you’re telling repeatedly is that they’re all to blame — they’re all equally to blame — then you’re really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do.
Froomkin’s story is a thought-provoking read for those interested in journalistic ethics and the way the campaign was reported. In an attempt to be fair and unbiased, America’s journalists apparently failed to be objective and factual. It gets complicated; you really need to read the story.
But of course, now I’m caught in the same predicament. There’s no way I can appear objective while referring you to a story that puts Republicans in a negative light. And there’s no way I can say “they put themselves in a negative light” without appearing biased against them, even if every word of that statement is true.
I see the problem here. And I’ll be damned if I see a solution.