From the New York Times media columnist, Jim Rutenberg, in a piece called “Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism”:
If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him? Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable….
…Mr. Trump’s candidacy is “extraordinary and precedent-shattering” and “to pretend otherwise is to be disingenuous with readers.” t would also be an abdication of political journalism’s most solemn duty: to ferret out what the candidates will be like in the most powerful office in the world.It may not always seem fair to Mr. Trump or his supporters. But journalism shouldn’t measure itself against any one campaign’s definition of fairness. It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment. To do anything less would be untenable.
1. The column disqualifies itself in the very first sentence. “If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?”
How? Factually. Fairly. Objectively. Of course. What the journalist “believes” is irrelevant and inconsequential. The journalist’s job is to report facts, undistorted by what the journalist “believes” and “feels.” Doing otherwise is an abuse of position and a breach of ethics. That a Times journalist would have to ask the question reveals how arrogant and untrustworthy the field of journalism has become.
2. How is what Rutenberg describes regarding Trump any different from myriad previous examples when the news media decided it was appropriate to slant its reporting because its journalists felt their political views deserved to prevail? The mainstream media, decided to actively promote the candidacy of Barack Obama, with uncritical saturation coverage, soaring accolades, and a near total absence of skepticism. News sources, especially the Times, have minimized the significance of Obama fiascos, helped Administration cover-ups of misconduct in episodes like the IRS mistreatment of conservative groups, and blatantly lobbied for policies they “believed” in, like restricting gun ownership, same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act.
Is Rutenberg kidding? “Throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century”…does he mean the textbook of journalism ethics from which the Times developed this, its standard of fairness in its Code of Standards and Ethics…
The goal of The New York Times is to cover the news as impartially as possible — “without fear or favor,” in the words of Adolph Ochs, our patriarch — and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and others fairly and openly, and to be seen to be doing so…
…that textbook? When was the last time any honest reader of sound mind could argue that the New York Times was “as impartially as possible”? How stupid and gullible does the Times think its readers are?
3. “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that.” Not if you’re a competent and ethical professional, it won’t. Does a lawyer who thinks her client is guilty let the quality of her representation reflect that? Not if she has any business practicing law. If a surgeon would be happier if a patient were dead, would that doctor withhold medical treatment? Not if the doctor follows his profession’s values. The difference is that journalists make up their ethical standards as suits their whims and biases at the moment. They are not true professionals at all.
4. “Mr. Trump’s candidacy is ‘extraordinary and precedent-shattering and ‘to pretend otherwise is to be disingenuous with readers.'” This is pure rationalization…six of them, in fact. Any rule or standard can be ignored by using these handy excuses…
13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
14. Self-validating Virtue
25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”
28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”
..and all in the service of the most corrupting standard of all: “the ends justify the means.”
5. In brief, the New York Times has told us that its reporters doing anything less than abandoning objective, non-partisan, impartial journalism would be “untenable.” The New York Times has just openly jettisoned journalism standards and ethics, as well as journalism itself, and called upon its colleagues to do the same. It has declared that rejecting integrity is integrity, and rejecting fairness is fair.
6. Somewhere, somehow, American journalism forgot that its function in a democracy is not to force-feed the public what its practitioners believe, but to inform the public thoroughly and competently so it can form its own beliefs.
If the New York Times is truly the flagship of American journalism, then American journalism is corrupt, untrustworthy, undemocratic, and dead.