* Marc Glennon *
I still find it almost unbelievable – honestly unbelievable – but there is a serious and expanding school of thought in journalism that openly says facts and objectivity don’t matter. What’s more important, they say, is to assert a social justice narrative even when the facts don’t match.
This view is supported by some of the leading American figures in the field, including some professors from top journalism schools. It is often called “advocacy journalism”, but “post-truth journalism” is more like it.
The first example is recent from here in Illinois, and it has garnered some national attention. The victim this time was from the political left, Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, so perhaps this incident will rekindle the debate over the sad direction of journalism.
This is Zorn’s column from last week titled “Resolved that Americans must relearn how to debate.“
Zorn recounted how he found himself “at the bottom of a pile of Twitter dogs” in April after writing one to say it would be good to get the body camera evidence from the police before drawing any conclusions about what happened in the Adam Toledo tragedy. Activists were already calling it murder by the police.
“For that, I have been called a racist and a monster whose own children should be killed so that I know what it does,” Zorn explains.
Among those who were furious that the evidence was important was Steven Thrasher. He is “the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair of Social Justice in Reporting” and an adjunct professor in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Thrasher tweeted that “there is no space in a journal to argue for the murder of a child, and that it is ‘never too early’ to think they deserve to be killed, ”so he canceled his subscription to the Tribune, Zorn wrote. In other words, fuck the facts. Just say the cops committed a murder.
Zorn says he contacted Thrasher a month later to attempt a more reasoned discussion. “I tried to start this exchange,” Zorn says, saying that “one of the jobs of a journalist is to question and question emerging narratives and conventional wisdom, to be clear on this. that we know for sure and what we suspect ”.
Here is the response Zorn received from the esteemed professor: “Your words make the murder of children more likely, and I am not interested in you, your unethical nature, your cynical worldview or communication with you. College Fix posted some of Thrasher’s other amazing comments about “racist” (according to Thrasher) Zorn.
Legal commentator Jonathan Turley picked up on Zorn’s column and written this week provide examples of other personalities in journalism who are part of the post-truth world. From there and one of Turley’s previous columns:
• Emeritus Professor of Communication at Stanford Ted glasser publicly called for the end of objectivity in journalism, because it is too restrictive for journalists in search of social justice…. “Journalists must be open and frank advocates of social justice, and it is difficult to do so under the constraints of objectivity.
• Wesley Lowery, who served as a national correspondent for the Washington Post, also rejects objectivity. In one Tweeter, Lowery said that “American journalism on sight of nowhere, obsessed with ‘objectivity’ and on both sides is a failed experiment … The old way must go. We need to rebuild our industry as an industry that operates from a place of moral clarity. “
• Even the publication of opposing views is now considered dangerous, as evidenced by the impeachment of New York Times editor-in-chief James Bennet, who resigned during the recent controversy over an editorial by Senator Tom Cotton.
• The University of North Carolina recently offered an academic chair in journalism to Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times. While Hannah-Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for her writings on the 1619 Project, she was criticized for her role in purging dissenting opinions from New York Times pages and enacting absurd anti-conspiracy theories. police officer.
How on earth do people like Thrasher, Hannah-Jones, Glasser, and Lowery get leadership positions in journalism? What was historically ridiculed as “yellow journalism” is now being promoted to the highest ranks in national journalism.
Getting back to Zorn, I give him a hello. He is among those who left the Tribune in the recent round of retirements. It has delighted a few of our readers here who dislike his leftist politics.
We don’t agree with his politics either, but Zorn was among the few on his side to at least try to make his case with facts. We tore him up when we thought he was wrong on the facts or didn’t get the whole story, but that’s what makes debates productive. So many other columnists seem to just get out of bed and tell you what they “feel” about something or share a sad story about their aunt’s recent trauma.
Specifically, Zorn’s chronicle of the Thrasher incident is right: people have to relearn how to debate, and you can’t have a debate with someone who rejects the overriding importance of facts and objectivity.
We saw a silver lining recently when WTTW boxed their news director, Hugo Balta. He later complained: “Throughout my career, I have expressed my commitment to a mission of transparency on the archaic practices of objectivity.” [Emphasis added.] Every media outlet and journalism school should also show the door to post-truths.
Zorn ended his column on the right note:
The part of me that isn’t discouraged by this still believes in the healing power of lively dialogue. He continues to hope for a re-emergence of a rational and fearless discourse on difficult, even stinking arguments.
Maybe this will be the first of our columns that he doesn’t find stinky.
* Mark Glennon is the founder of Wirepoints.