Announced bias versus studied impartiality is hardly new; on that, Rasmuson’s right [“A New Hope,” Nov. 14, City Weekly]. However, whichever you pick doesn’t answer the problem you’re trying to address.
For example, I could claim that I was a conservative, and then write a piece that promotes a progressive point of view. Alternatively, I could provide two points of view on a controversy, of which one was far weaker or obviously discredited, and claim that I had provided both sides of the story. Serving either of these—call them academic ideals of journalism—doesn’t solve the problem Rasmuson is implicitly addressing, which is how a journalist goes about informing people.
There are some things that are truly controversial—that is, given all the facts, two equally intelligent and rational people may disagree about an interpretation of the facts. Is a movie a good movie? Is it more important to promote industrial growth than to promote environmental protection? Is it OK to let people die of starvation or illness when they can’t afford food or medical care?
But there are other things that are only controversial to the extent that people disagree about what the facts are. That’s not a true controversy, and yet most journalists do get hung up here on the question Rasmuson is asking, when they decidedly should not.
Now, as I understand it, the gonzo journalism that Hunter S. Thompson promoted or the announced bias that Glenn Greenwald talks about should only affect the first kind of story: true controversies. They should not affect the second kind. Facts should have no bias, and when it turns out that people disagree on facts, journalists aren’t doing their job.
Salt Lake City