Tuesday, June 14, 2016

COMMITTING JOURNALISM

Journalist Daniel Perl, brutally murdered by Islamic radicals, used to say, jocularly, before he went to work,
"Let's commit journalism."
It is highly doubtful that he intended his work to be the kind of news aggregators such as The Huffington Post publish. For those who honour their profession, the commitment to commit journalism does not involve creating headlines laden with qualifiers, copy that reeks  with partisan bias.  Honourable workers who  make editorial decisions at do not consign journalistic ethics to the waste bin.They bolster their stories with facts and they allow their readers to come to his own conclusions.They do not pander to prejudices, political preferences, personal animosities.  Such journalists still exist, but their work is rarely seen in The Huffington Post or  its conservative counterpart, Fox News.
Clearly, both of these news outlets have a strong bias--one is purportedly liberal, the other conservative. They are, in essence, both sides of the same coin.
The mistake the members of the editorial board of these two sources of news make  is that their audience prefers pandering to objective  reporting. As a Liberal who reads The Huffington Post, I find all bias repugnant. I think that a news organisation that attempts to manipulate the political beliefs of its audience  insult it demeans it when it assumes that they  are incapable of distinguishing between legitimate reports and  copy unsupported by facts.
It is not legitimate journalism, in anyone's book, to lower the tone of a  of political discourse that has already  reached astonishing lows. To deify a political figure North Korea's Kim Jong-un, Russia's Vladimir Putin or own  Donald Trump  is not journalism.It is sycophantism. To  praise President Barack Obama for idiotic utterances, such as those that reflect  his dislike of the   words "radical Islam" is patronising and unacceptable because it involves the assumption that readers cannot form their own opinion. It is to act on the assumption that being a liberal means blind admiration of liberal politicians. It means suppression of critical thinking.
The thing is, that being a liberal demands that one use one's brain. It demands a clear vision and actions that are in  accord with  democratic principles. It is being an egalitarian without being a tool. It is thinking critically rather than following blindly. It is uniting rather than dividing. It is reaching for a consensus rather bludgeoning others with one's ever so admirable goodness and superiority.
The United States  is an increasingly divided nation. It is hard to believe that members of the  editorial board of blatantly partisan media outlets  can go home at the end of the day and claim that they did their bit to heal the fissures in American  society. Providing unlimited airtime to an idiotic presidential candidate who opposes one's own choice of representative is the job of political hacks, not the duty of honourable journalists.  Such work is not a service to the nation. It is simply  keeping alive what caricatures such as Donald Trump represent--hatred, racism, obscurantism. Who gains from that  work? Is it useful information or a silly game devised at newsroom where workers have lost touch with real people?
The role of the media is to inform. Opinion columnists do have more  leeway--I was one of them not too long ago--but that does not entail passing off bias as objective reporting.Being a journalist is to have a privileged position. It an opportunity and a challenge, not just the means to earn a living. When a journalist fails, society is at risk of seeing reality through a damaged prism.  When a journalist panders to a political group, be it liberal or Trumpist, society  suffers as much as it does under a dictatorship that chokes off the free press.
Bias is bias. It is evident in  blatant appeals for approval of whatever a  president. I know. I am a voter and I chose Obama for reasons other than an unexisting perfection. I do not find his refusal to utter the words "radical Islam" particularly admirable. I do not find his  support of a Rightist regime in Brazil very comfortable, In fact, it makes it a hell of a job to explain to my Brazilian family why I voted for an imperialist. I do not find it  admirable that my president engages in verbal fisticuffs with   Israel's Bibi Netanyahu. Te Huffington Post seems to think so. A democracy where voters are sufficiently adult to understand that all humans are fallible does not seem to be part of the vision of its editorial board. Yet  I labour under the illusion that  the US is a place where one  does not need to subscribe to the cult of personalities.
As an immigrant who lived under a dictatorship, it grieves me   to see workers at American news outlets squander the freedom  democracy grants them. My saying this will change nothing.In a democracy. journalists can lie, pander, manipulate and still claim to be objective.  One is  free to continue to flaunt the best principles of journalism. That is a matter between each one his conscience.But having said,  publicly, that honourable journalism admits no pandering,  I feel that no one who reads this  can claim that he never knew what it is to commit journalism

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