Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post spends most of her time being dead wrong about pretty much everything she writes about, so it was with little surprise that we read her latest column. In it, she waded into the debate about journalism’s proper role in the modern age, concluding ultimately that reporters should feel absolutely no reluctance about injecting their opinion into their writing. Proclaiming this with the safe certainty that those journalists will undoubtedly share her liberal opinion on what’s “right” and “wrong” with society, Sullivan proceeds.
“The core question is this: In this polarized, dangerous moment, what are journalists supposed to be?” Sullivan asked. “Pose that question to most members of the public, and you might get an answer something like this: ‘Just tell me the bare facts. Leave your interpretation out of it. And don’t be on anyone’s side.’ That’s an appealing idea at first blush. It’s also one that doesn’t always work, especially right now.”
Yes of course. It’s practically a strawman to say that. No one with any particular intelligence thinks that reporters can just “report the facts” without bias. It’s not humanly possible. Every choice, from verbiage to focus to the decision about which facts to report, will be colored with a certain amount of bias.
It’s also misleading to argue against those who suggest that reporters should “represent all points of view equally” – another strawman that Sullivan constructs and knocks down. She says that The New York Times should not have run Sen. Tom Cotton’s “send in the troops” op-ed because, gee, they wouldn’t run a column by Alex Jones proclaiming Sandy Hook a false flag event.
Well, no. Probably not. But really? You don’t think there’s any daylight between those two circumstances?
“What if we framed coverage with this question at the forefront: What journalism best serves the real interests of American citizens?” she continued. “Using that lens, Cotton’s views should be known, but not amplified and normalized within the prized real estate that is the op-ed page of the New York Times. Rather than present it as stamped with the imprimatur of the Times opinion pages, why not examine it in a news story that can provide context and can interrogate the facts he advances?”
But, Margaret. Margaret. Please. Listen to yourself. Who decides what the real interests of American citizens are? Do you think Tom Cotton wrote that op-ed with the intention of serving himself? A handful of billionaires in Davos? C’mon. He suggested sending in the troops because these rioters are tearing down businesses, hurting people, and leaving communities in chaos. How is the desire to put that destruction to bed not in the “real interests of American citizens”?
Sullivan concludes: “What about these journalists whom so many want to criticize as taking on the role of activists? I am enough of a traditionalist that I don’t like to see mainstream reporters acting like partisans — for example, by working on political campaigns. But it’s more than acceptable that they should stand up for civil rights — for press rights, for racial justice, for gender equity and against economic inequality.”
Right. But what if they stand up for law and order, an end to illegal immigration, and the exposure of the deep state? Is that “more than acceptable,” Margaret?
No, we didn’t think so.