On journalistic position taking
February 28, 2013 2 Comments
Among most political journalists, there is a strong norm of not taking a side, which all too often results in the knee-jerk centrism, “both sides are wrong” or “both sides do it” approach that so distorts the reality of American politics. I love the point Tomasky makes here that this approach is absolutely advocating a point of view:
Someone like Fournier probably thinks that he’s not supposed to take positions. But in these three columns, he took a position whether he knows it or not: He took the position that a president who has cut spending three times as much as he has increased revenue, and whose current offer, a mostly even mix of cuts and revenues, is backed by three-quarters of the American people, is being no more reasonable than a minority party that says our way or the highway whose position is supported by 19 percent of the people.
Those positions are not equivalent. To write as if they are equivalent is to perpetrate a lie. [emphasis mine] Or at least two lies: in the immediate case, the lie that the Republicans are engaged in anything resembling good-faith bargaining; and in the broader sense, the lie that the GOP is a normal political party by our historical norms, just a slightly more intense version of the Democrats of the 1980s or the Whigs of the 1840s. They are not that.
As long as journalists keep pretending that this approach is somehow not taking a point of view or “playing it down the middle” they are doing a huge disservice to the American public.