Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Truth Crisis in America

How did the American Press reach a point where over 80% of working journalists self-identify as “liberal” or “left of center”, where major television networks and newpapers across the country function as the public relations arm of one political party, and (un)truth is a means justifying an end?

First came interpretive reporting, a tacit declaration by journalists that they were an elite who must explain their newsgathering to the ignorant masses. Somewhere along the way, interpretive reporting metastasized into advocacy journalism. In effect, that meant that the opinions of the editors and reporters had escaped the bounds of the editorial page and were masquerading as facts.

Advocacy journalism, in its most virulent form, is almost indistinguishable from propaganda. The medium is no longer simply reporting the facts, but twisting them through writing, story selection, and placement to further an editorial agenda. In today’s America that usually means a progressive agenda, which often has admirable goals, but sometimes ones that are ill-conceived, half-baked, and downright detrimental to society. Advocacy journalism deliberately blurs the line between fact and opinion, and leads naturally into absurdities such as referring to employees of the Soviet-era Pravda and al Jazeera as “journalists”.