Sunday, September 27, 2009

Twitter Gag

Media outlets often decry the lack of transparency in the organizations they cover. This is ironic since they seem not to grasp the concept.

An editor at the Washington Post expressed personal opinions on his Twitter feed and the paper responded by closing the curtain on staffers' personal expressions on social media.

This post on includes the complete text of the new policy, which the Post did not reveal itself.

In the Post's view, the problem is that Raju Narisetti, one of its two managing editors, tweeted, “We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not but we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.”

And: “Sen Byrd (91) in hospital after he falls from ‘standing up too quickly.” How about term limits. Or retirement age. Or commonsense to prevail.”

That's not the problem. The problem is that the Post apparently believes that keeping its employees' biases secret from the public is how to maintain a pretense of objectivity in its reporting.

All journalists worth the the title try to keep their opinions out of their stories. But one's worldview can't help but shape their vision of stories.

Revealing reporters' and editors' personal views better informs readers about stories. Few even reasonably observant people still believe that any but the most basic who/what/where stories are free of bias.

It's not a conspiracy to spin stories a certain way. It's that pure objectivity is impossible because, like beauty, objectivity is in the eye of the beholder.

The problem, and this may be the fear of many news outlets, would be if openness about personal opinion revealed that an overwhelming percentage of the staff shared the same biases. But that, too, is something readers should know.

Lift the veil. Open the curtain. Let in the light. Transparency is good.

1 comment:

Ike said...

That's one of the reasons I have huge respect for John Stossel.

You know exactly where he is coming from, and can judge his premises and his reporting accordingly.

I wish it was more open.