Ed Driscoll

THE SEATTLE TIMES THINKS IT'S NEUTRAL

Stefan Sharkansky disagrees:

“Neutral” journalism would give equal time to those who argue that slaves were happier than free blacks, that homosexuals should be executed or that Communism works well in practice. Fortunately, that’s probably not what the Times has in mind. Meanwhile, newspapers that pretend in earnest to be “neutral” have given rise to the varieties of journalism that inspired us to launch this blog in the first place. The Times would have more credibility if instead of flogging the conceit of “neutral reporting” it simply acknowledged its reporters biases and also extended its “commitment to diversity” to broaden the diversity of opinions in its newsroom.

As John Poderhertz wrote last year in the New York Post:

I’ve worked for two newspapers – this one and the Washington Times. One of the primary qualities that has distinguished these two papers from most others in the country is that they do not pretend to be something they’re not. They are run by conservatives. Readers know it, and are given the opportunity to read them and judge for themselves whether the information in them is improperly colored by the ideological views of the owners and managers.

In the world of professional journalists, this lack of pretense is considered a black mark against these institutions. They are criticized and held in lesser regard precisely because they have the integrity to be honest with their readers about what they are.

And as Bob Goldfarb wrote in December:

I think history will show the faith in unbiased journalistic “truth” to have been a temporary aberration. The national papers of Great Britain, like the American press of the 19th century, are popular precisely because of their well-known ideological positions, not from any pretense of neutrality. They report the news by their own lights, recognizing that readers prefer the news to be filtered through values and beliefs similar to their own.

So does The New York Times. The Times has become America’s only truly national, general-interest newspaper because it has the best reporting, writing, and editing in the country…and because its worldview matches that of its target consumers. It doesn’t need to purport to be unbiased. Okrent believes that his, and presumably the paper’s, “only concern” is to be “dispassionate.” It will be enough if he and The Times continue to serve its readers’ interests rather than their own.

Somewhat surprisingly, a number of journalists have recently been coming forward to admit their biases. Maybe eventually the Seattle (and New York) Times will join them.