“There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn’t mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.”
——Christiane Amanpour in 1996, responding to critics who called her reporting on the Bosnian War biased.
Now THIS is an unethical quote, in contrast to the earlier one from Christiane, which I posted yesterday as an “Ethics Quote of the Week.”
I’m posting this one 20 years after it was uttered because…
1. It explains the previous quote from yesterday.
2. It tells us everything we need to know about Christiane, which is to say, she cannot be trusted as a reporter.
3. For some reason I was unaware of it.
4. It appears to have become the motto of all reporters.
5. It is unethical to the core, and
6. A lot of people, including most journalists, don’t know why.
In a new and silly book about women in journalism, “Yes She Did!” (yecch), Taylor Rudow quotes Amanpour and gushes that “she’s not afraid to tell the American public what is really happening…the real story.” No, that’s not what a reporter who isn’t objective does, unless that reporter is ethical enough to subordinate his or her own biases to the job of reporting facts without slant, manipulation, omitting parts that do not support the reporter’s objective, and (Hello, Carol Costello!) eye rolls, grimaces, smirks and giggles.
In another statement regarding her apparent bias in the Bosnian War, Amanpour was more specific, saying,
“Some people accused me of being pro-Muslim in Bosnia…but in cases of genocide you can’t just be neutral. You can’t just say, “Well, this little boy was shot in the head and killed in besieged Sarajevo and that guy over there did it, but maybe he was upset because he had an argument with his wife.” No, there is no equality there, and we had to tell the truth.”
I have no problem with reasonable exceptions to the “objectivity” rule, especially when objective ethical values clearly apply. A reporter need not be objective reporting unequivocal human rights atrocities, if that means, “some say we should kill all Jews, some say we shouldn’t.” The problem, and Amanpour’s trajectory since Bosnia illustrates it, is that reporters, being human, are incapable of drawing hard lines. “Objectively wrong,” thus justifying a lack of journalistic neutrality, very rapidly slides into “whatever the journalist thinks is right is right, and thus good journalism is to advocate the “right” thing,” as in “what I, my colleagues, my party and my favored politicians know is the right thing.”
Amanpour, for example, has advocated, as a “reporter,” anti-male bigotry, because that’s what she believes in. She is biased toward Iranians, so she won’t be an “accomplice” to the Jewish state’s insistence that when a fanatic militant Islamic regime says that it intends to wipe it from the face of the map, it is reasonable to assume that once that regime has the wherewithal to do that, it will. She doesn’t draw the line where her own biases shouldn’t warp or slant her reporting at genocide, or slavery, or rape, or human trafficking. She draws it wherever she chooses, and doesn’t tell her audience that what she is saying isn’t objective reporting, but partisan or ideological advocacy.
That’s fine, but it means that Amanpour isn’t a reporter; she’s a pundit, like Al Sharpton, Bill O’Reilly, or Rush Limbaugh, and her analysis should be given exactly the same weight, and taken with the same skepticism, as what any of those offer. CNN shouldn’t call her a reporter, because she isn’t one. When she made that quote, she was rejecting the role of a reporter, and the ethical obligations of one.
Amanpour is either a pundit with an agenda, or an untrustworthy and unethical reporter. Her own words disqualify her as a trustworthy journalist, and any one who calls her “a highly-respected veteran foreign journalist,” as a misguided commenter who defended her absurd analysis of Netanyahu’s speech before Congress did on the earlier post, is endorsing an unethical definition of journalism, though admittedly the prevailing one.
Pointer: Steve-O-In NJ