Ed Driscoll

Open-Sourced Reporting

Will Collier of Vodkapundit has some thoughts on how the media can repair the damage of the back to back to back crises of the media, most recently RatherGate and Eason Jordan’s serial soldier slandering, in a piece titled, “MSM, Heal Thyself”:

what I’d like to see in the MSM is not an end to rancor, or controversy, or tough reporting. What’s called for instead is an end to the myth of Olympian objectivity in the press. Reporters and editors are not higher beings–they are as subject to human foibles as anybody else–including those of bias, spite, ideology, and even hatred. It’s long-past time to drop the charade and admit that fact of life.

In financial writing, reporters are required to disclose any holdings or personal interest they may have in a company that they’re writing about. Why shouldn’t the same rules apply to political reporters? Why shouldn’t Dana Milbank, Peter Jennings, and Bob Schieffer publicly state, on a reasonably regular basis, who they voted for in the last election, and who they plan to vote for in upcoming races? (And yes, I’d extend that to Brit Hume and Bill O’Reilly as well.) They would demand the same of any critic of their coverage, and absolutely demand such disclosure from corporate officials, political activists, or even in man-on-the-street interviews.

Instead of disclosure, we currently have a ridiculous ad-hoc system of elaborate obfuscation and denial. On the one hand, we have credible surveys of journalists indicating they vote for Democratic candidates far out of proportion to the rest of the electorate, as well as the very-occasional admissions that newsrooms lean heavily left on most issues, buttressed by still-more polling data. On the other, we have ridiculous displays like an editor being suspended from his job because he donated $400 to a presidential candidate, and other very prominent journalists making a show of not voting because exercising their franchise might be construed as (gasp!) possibly leading to favor for one candidate over another in their coverage.

What are you afraid of, journalists? Being honest with your readers? Yes, some might discount you for being up-front with your beliefs, and stop paying attention–but I’m here to tell you, most of them are tuning you out already. Look at the Pew surveys. If your credibility was a stock, you’d be in Enron territory by now.

Since 9/11, as we documented a few times last year, that’s begun to happen, but on an ad hoc and fairly accidental basis. But there are lots of journalists remaining who believe that they’re writing with Olympian objectivity–and who claim that all journalists do.

Will’s correct–there should be much more disclosure. Read the rest of his post, and follow his links as well.