A Lack Of Basic Fairness


So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here—not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

Hunter S Thompson, Fear and Loathing; On the Campaign Trail ’72

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Viddy of the day: Dan Gillmor: We the Media, Grassroots Journalism for the People

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Spent much of my short  and relaxed morning commute reading about Journalism, and what it is exactly.  I saw that two words were not there, that, had I read the story a few years ago, would probably have surprised me.  Those two words being fair and balanced.  I used to think that those two would be high on the list of things that a journalist, and by extension writers in general, should have in their arsenal.   But, being the writer that I am,  I have no real need for them, so it isn’t surprising that journalists don’t need them either.  

I’m not a journalist, but I am a writer, and I like to think of myself as independent.  And from experience, I can say that independence in writing, true independence does not have to be fair to anyone or anything. Balance?  Please, balance is something you need when you are standing on your head, not when writing.  Whether tilting at windmills or fighting the demons that inhabit and inhibit this world, one does not need to be fair or balanced.  Attacking those who do wrong on one side of a fight, be it political or an actual one actually requires at the least a bit of a lean towards one side or the other in telling the story, and to be honest the more the better.

Would the story of , for example, John Dillinger have been as compelling if the story was only told from an impartial stance?  Clearly not, part of what made that early 20th century story of cops and robbers compelling was the rebel fighting authority/criminal against society paradigm that leant itself so well to not just plain news, simple telling of facts, but storytelling, real journalism, and much other good writing is storytelling.  

If all the stories ever told of them was simple facts, like “John Dillinger and 3 accomplices robbed the first national bank at gunpoint at 4:00pm…” It would have been a very dry story, and no one would have read the damn thing. 

The writers, the journalists made it juicy, looked for angles, not just facts, but told the story of Dillinger, his amazing escapes, the raids of police stations, his killing policemen, alternately making him a pariah and a hero to those who hated authority.  No need for balance, the bad guy was a bad guy, and he was fighting the cops, both resonated, and they still do.  The writers who wrote about him are the reason why his name is still so recognizable, 76 years after his death.

Now THAT is some powerful writing, when it can do that. 

So long as the truth is told, and verified, as long as the story is kept interesting, you are keeping to the integrity that is necessary to be a journalist, whether you are one or not.  Save fair and balanced for your critiques of news organizations that claim they are important, when they are clearly not.

One of these days, I’m going to be a journalist, until then, I’ll just be a writer.  It’s a start.

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That’s it from here, America.  I’ll write to you tomorrow.

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