If You're A Journalist Who Thinks That Pointing Out Lies Shows Bias, You're Not A Journalist
from the you're-a-pr-person dept
For years, we’ve pointed out the ridiculousness of “the view from nowhere” reporting (a phrase coined by journalism professor Jay Rosen). This is the ridiculous belief that being an “objective” journalist means never challenging what someone says to you, but rather just showing “both sides of the story” and not “taking” any side. But, that’s ridiculous. If someone claims that the earth is flat, and you do a story showing the person claiming that, alongside someone else saying it’s not, but never point out that the person saying the earth is flat is crazy, then you’re not doing your job as a journalist. A journalist should be focusing on getting to the truth, and that means calling bullshit when warranted.
This issue has come up again this week, thanks to NBC talking head Matt Lauer’s inability to challenge Donald Trump’s blatantly false statement that he was against the war in Iraq. Trump has been saying this throughout the campaign, and it’s simply not true. What’s more, plenty of journalists have pointed out that it’s not true, and any journalist interviewing the candidate, as Matt Lauer did, should have known that and should have pushed back. But Lauer did not, leading to widespread criticism.
What’s perhaps even more astounding, however, is that some TV journalists jumped in to defend Lauer, insisting that doing actual fact checking on lies is showing bias:
Political talk-show host Chris Matthews, for example, said after the event that if Lauer had called Trump out for lying, that would be equivalent to expressing an opinion, and moderators are supposed to be neutral.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who is going to be moderating one of the debates between Trump and Clinton, said something similar in an interview. Wallace said it?s not his job to question the factual accuracy of a candidate?s statement during such an event.
?I do not believe it?s my job to be a truth squad,? Wallace said. ?It?s up to the other person to catch them on that.?
If that’s what they think, then they should all find new jobs. Because they’re not journalists. The finding of truth is important, and calling out a candidate (or others in power) for false statements when they make them is part of that important role. It’s not “biased” to seek the truth. It’s not “biased” to call a false statement a false statement. It’s the job of a journalist.