Without fear or favor?
Once upon a time, and not too long ago, the job of journalism was seen as reporting the truth “without fear or favor” and “letting the chips fall where they may.”
Not so much anymore.
Journalists in this new age of mainstream journalism are more interested in protecting an ideological narrative, and that narrative is decidedly left-wing.
The general public understands this instinctively, even though many journalists and journalism academics maintain that bias does not exist in mainstream journalism.
The yawning gulf between what lay people can see and hear with their own eyes and ears, and that which journalism’s defenders claim to be the case, is no doubt responsible for the low levels of trust that lay persons have for the profession.
Because every human being comes to the table with biases, preferences, prejudices, and other foibles, so do journalists come to their jobs so encumbered. The important thing is how they deal with them.
Do they subordinate their personal likes and dislikes to reporting “the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved,’’ to quote New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs from an 1896 editorial?
Or do they join forces with political and other societal segments to push agendas and skew their reporting to benefit or punish according to those forces with which they are allied?
Sadly, it is the second approach that has become commonplace in the early 21st century. An example of this occurred just recently. When Colorado high school student Karl Pierson shot a fellow student and later killed himself at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, an early website report by The Denver Post read this way:
The gunman’s parents divorced in late 2011, according to court records. The divorce was finalized in August 2012.
Thomas Conrad, who had an economics class with the gunman, described him as a very opinionated Socialist.
“He was exuberant I guess,” Conrad said. “A lot of people picked on him, but it didn’t seem to bother him.”
It didn’t take long for that second sentence to be changed to this:
Thomas Conrad, who had an economics class with Pierson, described him as very opinionated.
Reporters normally love getting the kind of detail in the first iteration of this web story. Why, then, was the word “Socialist” suddenly expunged from the story?
The Post’s editor later said she didn’t want another student to be able to “label” Pierson, a quibble that hasn’t kept the media from prematurely and inaccurately “labeling” several recent mass shooters as Tea Party followers.
Jon Ham is publisher of Carolina Journal. This column originally appeared in that publication’s online “Daily Journal.”