Sunday, August 19, 2007

Journalists and Candidates

Earlier this summer, MSNBC did a big "investigative" report on what candidates journalists were maing contributions to. Three of my colleagues were named (two gave money to specific Democratic candidates and 1 to thew Republican party at large) and I thought it was all a rather stupid waste of time.

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz then weighed in, saying that journalists give up their rights to give money to candidates and that journalists giving money to Democratic candidates just makes the press look biased. He said journalists should never donate. It think Kurtz is silly. There's nothing about being a journalist that denies some one the right to donate to a candidate -- political donations are, for the most part, free speech (though the practice is somewhat regulated, the Supreme Court agrees with me on that).

Now, Sean Hannity is holding s fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani. Well, my employer is Giuliani's national campaign chair so I guess I'm not likely to think this is a big deal.

But... it isn't.

Sean Hannity is an outspoken conservative. If he wants to back Giuliani in a public way, then so be it.

My boss, also an outspoken conservative, made the same choice.

And my colleagues who made political donations also did it publically because all political donations are public.

Fact is, everybody has opinions about who they want to see elected and everyone should. Having a job in media shouldn't change that. I have no problem with Hannity because it's public. Far better that people in all fields live their biases and beliefs rather than pretend to objectivity.

It's easier for me as a magazine journalist to say so. Newspaper types hold objectivity as a prime virtue. We magazine people, involved in more analytic work, hold fairness as the highest virtue. One can be biased but fair. I guess my bias is towards that type of journalism.

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 11:10 PM , Blogger Jon E. said...

Yeah, the "journalists shouldn't donate" is a dumb theory. Underlying that theory is one of two possible (dumb) rationales: 1) journalists shouldn't have opinions about politics or 2) journalists should never do anything as private citizens that would suggest their opinions.

The first rationale is both impossible and, frankly, stupid. The only things that people don't have opinions about are things that they're not aware of. Even a total ignoramus assigned to cover candidates would form an opinion as soon as he or she were exposed to them.

The second rationale is also stupid because it encourages journalists not to be more objective but rather to hide their biases better. I can't see how that helps. Theory #2, incidentally, would also mean that journalists could never tell tell anyone who they voted for just in case that fact became public knowledge. Better if they stopped voting altogether.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home