My best friend is in a vicious fight downtown, and at the height of the fracas, I see him sneaking up behind another man and beating him over the head with a beer bottle. 

In my news story about the brawl, am I going to report that my poor friend was merely defending himself? That the other dude started it? That there was no beer bottle at all? 

No, man. I’m not. I swear to you. That’s not my job. My job is to present you with the facts as I know them, based on witness statements, police reports and my own observations. I’ll tell you what happened so that you can decide on your own whether my buddy is a weasel, a sneak and a low-down dirty fighter. 

Just the facts, ma’am. That’s how it works. 

Or used to. 

At Stanford University in California, a communications professor recently declared that the notion of objectivity in journalism is overrated and should be done away with. 

He stated this openly. Unabashedly and without irony. 

Objectivity, according to Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser, is just too cumbersome, and it gets in the way of what a journalist should consider his or her REAL job: activism. 

“Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice,” Glasser said, “and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.” 

It goes without saying that I disagree, and not respectfully or politely. What respect should I have for a man, presumably a trained journalist hired to teach the craft to others, who so indifferently discards the most sacrosanct element of the profession? 

Objectivity is honesty. Without it, what you have isn’t news coverage but propaganda. Lies, in other words.

Without objectivity, journalists become mere mouthpieces for powerful men and women with dubious agendas. They become paid liars, accepting checks to push the agenda no matter how many facts they have to blur, bend or obliterate to do so. 

Ten years ago, the lunatic rantings of this Stanford professor would have been worthy of eye rolls and brief strings of sputtered profanity, nothing more. Surely a man with such a moronic opinion would be removed from his position and replaced with someone who actually understands how journalism works,

These days, though? I’m not confident that Glasser’s opinion isn’t shared by the majority of people, and that is a thought that makes me feel sick all over.  In an age where lifelong friends will stomp away from each other forever in disputes over face coverings, a good chunk of the population seems to crave only the “news” that bolsters their own opinions. 

Lie to me, newsman. I WANT you to. 

Even those who glue themselves to CNN, MSNBC or FOX News Channel each night for the latest round of horrors tend to accept that our old friend, objectivity, rarely makes an appearance anymore. But that is OK, they figure, because we need to be unified in our fight against this man, or that group, or this political cause or that other one. 

It is OK, they reason, if those talking heads seem more intent on indoctrinating their viewers rather than merely informing them as the profession demands. Because these are difficult times, by golly, and we must combat wrongthink together.

It is not OK, though. Not even a little. If you do not demand objectivity from your news source, you are inviting nothing but lies, and lies are what get us into the really big messes. Look what happens to nations that do away with an honest press — nations like Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China.

The only thing that prevents corrupt people from unleashing the full fury of their evil on the world are groups of watchers willing to tell the truth about their deeds. An honest and objective observer keeps those diabolical souls in check. 

That is how it SHOULD work, anyway. And has there ever been a period in our lifetimes where we have so badly needed an honest media more than now? We do not need more people trying to sell us on their beliefs. We need more people telling the truth.

Professor Glasser does not think so.

“I’m not a big fan of the term ‘objectivity’ or ‘objective truth,’” he said, “because it gets us talking about all the wrong things.” 

He said that, and the whole world of journalism did not immediately rise up in protest to condemn Glasser’s twisted notions. As far as I have been able to discern, nobody other than the great Jonathan Turley said much of anything at all. Because more and more, people seem to be accepting that journalism is not what it once was, and maybe this is just another sign of the changing times. 

I tell you, it’s not, though. Objectivity is honesty, and honesty will always be the most important thing in this work. It is the only thing, really. Glasser’s dismissal of it is abhorrent to me and should be abhorrent to anyone who values the truth. 

What I do is journalism on a very small scale. I report on street fights, shootings, house fires, car wrecks, all occurring in my very small corner of the world. In writing a news story, my job is not to offer an opinion on the mischief at hand (I have a column for that). It is to present you with the facts so you can form your own opinion. 

The day I feel compelled to slant those stories one way or another, to advance my own agenda or someone else’s, is the day I’ll turn in my notebook and pen and walk off the job. That is a solemn promise.

I will go dig graves or scrub toilets for a living, and I’ll be OK with that because if you’re a journalist, anything in the world is more noble than selling your soul. 

Frankly, Ted Glasser should do the same.


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