Gonna Leave a Mark

When the Columbia Journalism Review writes an article about your paper, it can frequently be uncomfortable.

When the CJR title is, The Post’s Masthead Will Have to Accept That It Is Not God, you know it is going to be an unpleasant read for the WaPo editorial staff.

The problem here is not one of technology. It is one of politics. The attempt of prestige newspapers like the Post to cast themselves as perfect sentinels of objectivity standing outside the tawdry world of political judgment is, as honest journalists have long realized, absurd. And impossible. The Post’s current social media policy forbids posting anything “that could objectively be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism.” 

Consider the assumptions inherent in such a standard. It posits, first, the existence of someone capable of telling hundreds of journalists with hundreds of different sets of life experiences covering a complex nation of 330 million citizens what “objectively” is political or racial bias. (Maybe God is up to that job, but Marty Baron is not.) We see in practice that what is ruled to violate this standard is a reporter noting a history of sexual assault in a recently deceased celebrity, or a reporter saying that the Tea Party was motivated by racism. Are these observations “objectively” evidence of some sort of “bias?” No. They are, instead, evidence that it is a fool’s errand for the management of the Post to act as though they alone have insight into objective truth.

Oh, snap!

Leave a Reply