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Douglas MacKinnon: Journalism now rarely seeks facts, ma’am, just the facts

August 1, 2013

By Douglas MacKinnon

WASHINGTON–Will the last honest, ethical, and completely professional journalist please turn out the lights? The pretense of an objective mainstream media is long over.

I was recently speaking with two editors from top-10 newspapers who by their own admission see the world from different ends of the political spectrum and yet both were bemoaning the state of their profession.

One — a bit right-of-center — complained how more and more reporters and editors are putting their ideology before their duties as journalists and skewing stories and “news” accounts to reflect or enhance that ideology.

The other — a bit left-of-center — mentioned how completely unfair it was that conservatives are purposely shut out of consideration for Pulitzer and Nobel prizes while admitting his paper refuses to report on that unassailable reality because of its own bias.

I have often said that human nature dictates that people love to embrace the truth right up until the moment it reflects poorly upon themselves or their cause. When journalists and editors deliberately ignore — or even work to discredit — the truth, then all of us pay a price, regardless of party or cause.

It seems almost everything now in mainstream journalism and the media is viewed through an ideological prism. More often than not, a prism only admitting and spreading a liberal light.

What happened to journalists and editors simply doing their jobs and following only the facts to their natural conclusions? What happened to talking to both sides in a contentious or highly controversial issue and then doing some actual investigating to see which — if any — side was closer to the truth?

What happened to the hard-boiled city editors as played by Clark Gable in the movie “Teacher’s Pet” who believed the only job of a journalist was to find out “who, what, when, where, and why,” and leave all personal feelings and bias out of the reporting?

The betrayal of journalistic ethics is sadly on display daily. If it wasn’t so serious and potentially damaging to our nation and our future, it would be laughable in its extreme.

Every single day we can read, watch, or listen to “journalists” saying: “Some on the right are claming that Obamacare is falling apart, will have a negative impact on medical care, and will bankrupt our nation; some on the right are claiming that public-employee pensions are unsustainable and are outright destroying the budgets and services offered by various cities, counties and states and are most adversely hurting the poor; some on the right are claiming that the negative effects of global warming have been grossly exaggerated and that the ‘greening’ of our nation is a detriment to our citizens; some on the right are claiming that well over 90 percent of our college and university professors lean left-of-center and advocate discrimination against conservative or faith-based professors while indoctrinating students with only their approved ideology.”

I have an idea. Instead of these journalists “claiming some on the right” are making these charges, why don’t they actually get out of the liberal echo chamber, do some investigative reporting and write on where those facts — and only the facts — take them?

Surely there must be some ethical and professional journalists and editors out there still willing to squash bias and report on the “who, what, when, where, and why,” no matter where it leads them. Surely. Published in the Providence Journal.

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