The end of journalism as I knew it

All my life as a journalist, I have tried to write in a way that was fair to all sides of an issue and masked whatever my personal opinion was, because the idea was to present the facts of a story accurately.

This is the authentic beginning of a news story that cleared the Associated Press feed the other day.

WASHINGTON (AP) — First, some blamed the deadly Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol on left-wing antifa antagonists, a theory quickly debunked. Then came comparisons of the rioters to peaceful protesters or even tourists.
Now, allies of former President Donald Trump are calling those charged in the Capitol riot “political prisoners,” a stunning effort to revise the narrative of that deadly day.
The brazen rhetoric ahead of a rally planned for Saturday at the Capitol is the latest attempt to explain away the horrific assault and obscure what played out for all the world to see: rioters loyal to the then-president storming the building, battling police and trying to stop Congress from certifying the election of Democrat Joe Biden.

Neither the writer of this AP story, nor whatever editor(s) read and cleared it for release, would have a job in a newsroom where I was asked to be in charge.

I don’t think I need to point out the places where the writer’s opinion bleeds through, do I? Hints: “a theory quickly debunked.” Words like “stunning” and “brazen” and “horrific.” This is the opposite of objective reporting.

There’s a place for this kind of writing in journalism, of course — in articles clearly marked “opinion” and/or “analysis.” I saw neither label in plain sight.

This is an example of why the average human being has lost faith in what has come to be known as mainstream media. At least non-mainstream media is straightforward about its agenda. There seems to be no one left in the business interested in telling the story straight down the middle.

The only way to get something resembling an objective view is to read several versions of a story and try to discern the objective facts that every side seems to agree on. For example, on Jan. 6 it’s clear that hundreds if not thousands of people entered the Capitol building, one person was shot and killed by a police officer, a number of people were injured and property damage was done. Almost everything beyond that is open to interpretation.

It always has depended on your point of view. In the past, at least, or at least in news stories I wrote, each point of view was presented with neutral language. I guess I’m an old fossil from another time.

Leave a Reply