5.6 World Views

I wish that U.S. news organizations would drop the pretense of being impartial and of having no world view. There’s no conflict between having a world view and doing great journalism.

When I go to London I buy The Guardian and The Telegraph. Both do excellent journalism. The Guardian covers the world from a slightly left-of-center standpoint, and The Telegraph from a slightly right-of-center stance. I read both and figure I’m triangulating on the essence of (British establishment) reality. Even if I read just one, the paper’s overt frame of reference gives me a better way of understanding what’s happening than if it pretended to be impartial. And—crucially—both newspapers run articles (and lots of op-eds) that either directly challenge their editors’ and proprietors’ world views or, more routinely, include facts and context that run contrary to what those individuals might wish was true. Journalism’s independence of thought means, in particular, being willing or even eager to learn why your core assumptions could be wrong.

Contrast this with the Washington Post’s record. This newspaper had a vividly obvious world view during the run-up to the Iraq War: pro-administration and pro-war. The view was reflected principally in the fact that the little journalism it did questioning the premise for invading Iraq rarely, if ever, made the front page, in contrast to the relentless parroting of war-mongering from Bush administration insiders. Even Post journalists admitted as much, though not in those words. I’m guessing that the newspaper’s editors, who are as good as anyone else in the field, would have done a better job of covering the opposing facts and views if the paper’s world view had been stated as a matter of policy, partly because the best journalists enjoy challenging conventional wisdom, even when it’s from their own bosses.

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