The ethics of journalism
To the editor:
When asked about the part that newspapers played in enabling Donald Trump, retiring Washington Post editor Martin Baron said, “We needed to call them lies from the beginning. We were very much operating on good principle; and let’s be fair, he was president, he was duly elected. But he was exploiting our principles. That said, I don’t think it would have made any great difference.”
That’s where he and I disagree. Of course it would have made a difference. Under the guise of “balanced journalism,” the same weight is given to lies of omission, false equivalence and slander as is given to factually based reality. Bothsideism is a worthless gambit when it’s been proven that one side engages in skewing the truth.
By printing Rep. Elise Stefanik’s reasons for voting against impeachment, this newspaper was being fair. But when the writer has already been revealed as a person who insists to her constituents that there’s voter fraud, even though courts have found no evidence, her motives and trustworthiness are already in question. She abused her privilege of writing a straightforward, earnest explanation by using it as an opportunity to attack Democrats.
These are the challenges of newspapers, like this one, that want to be honest and fair. Social and cable media are unmonitored for truth, conspiracy theory websites are unregulated, and politicians lie like they breathe. The role of newspapers, as guardians of factual ethics who will research and call a lie a lie, are more important than ever.