Gay Politics Journalism Politics

On 'Balanced' and 'Impartial' Journalism…

I’ve just read this astonishing article on a conference held by journalists about the reporting of gay issues: [“‘Gay’ journalists turn activists“] At this conference the question of “balance” came up – the question was Do we have to present both sides of the opinion on gay issues, when we don’t on racism? This is a quote from one of the people present:

“Ramon Escobar, an MSNBC producer who moderated the same plenary session, said, “This whole issue of ‘balance’ that we as journalists are supposed to achieve. … When we cover the black community, I’ve never seen a newsroom where you’re covering one side and then you have to go run out and get the Klan’s point of view: ‘Well, I’ve got to go do my Klan interview.’ How do you be fair?”

The article itself, however, is decidedly anti-gay – they quote the piece above as if it were a ridiculous thing to say. The journalist themselves says:

“Despite all the gay propaganda masquerading as news; despite the ubiquitous pro-“gay” puff pieces; and the “inside” manipulations by NLGJA journalists, something is wrong: Americans are still repulsed by homosexual behavior. Gay sex remains a massive turn off. “

I’m not going to argue with this person on the grounds of rights vs tastes – although one might argue briefly that not liking hip-hop should not be reason enough to countenance racism – but what I am going to take issue with is his statement about the role of journalists. Two quote for you now:

“A newsman’s job is to report the news — not undermine natural inhibitions guided by centuries of moral teaching.”

At the conference, homosexual reporters in mainstream media positions found it hard to subdue their enthusiasm for “gay rights,” thus discarding the old journalistic ethic of neutrality.

That the gentleman concerned also seems to miss the point of is that the job of the reporter is also to report the truth – whether that be difficult for some people to accept or not. The interpretation of that truth is another matter – and I’m afraid one where it simple isn’t possible to take a completely “balanced” line.

After all – how can you be “balanced” and still be a reporter – if what you report has to reflect the full breadth of opinion on every issue, whether or not there is any evidence or not, then serious news reporting about the death of Kennedy would be full of wild accusations and (probably) untruths (aliens, CIA conspiracies, FBI conspiracies, Masons, Illuminati etc etc etc). The job of the reporter is to assess the facts and report what seems most likely to be the truth – not to mirror what he or she reports to the opinions of the population.

In fact, I think this points to one of the biggest crises in journalism in the USA today. Writing the news has never been about being “balanced” (in the sense of mirroring the report to a greater or lesser extent to what various interest groups say is the truth), but about being impartial – free from those influences to write what appears to be the truth.