This article was originally published on Sep 16
My previous article about pro-same-sex marriage bias in an allegedly “non-advocacy” Medill project got many reactions. I thank the NC Equal Media blog’s authors and the Medill Equal Media Project’s director for taking the time to write civil responses to my article.
Though I encourage readers to read all of these reactions, I maintain my original point. Mainly, that the project is not “non-advocacy” since it specifically endorses gay marriage. Observe:
In her response to my piece, one of NC Equal Media’s authors writes:
“We’re not here to advocate for marriage equality, or employment non-discrimination, or hate crime laws.”
Yet in the Equal Media Project’s website, as I previously noted, both authors casually remark:
“Although presidential support for marriage equality is a big step forward, states across the country have, like North Carolina, taken several steps back.”
There is a very clear contradiction between those two quotes. And I don’t think the second one can be explained away by claiming that it was taken out of context, or that “no journalists are apolitical” (and therefore bias is justified?), etc.
Again, the question is not whether gay marriage is a good or a bad thing for society. That is for voters, not journalists, to decide. The question is whether this sort of writing is objective. It is not.
Those who argue that one-sidedness under the cover of objectivity is necessary for noble causes like marriage equality to succeed are missing the point. Most of the great journalistic misdeeds of the last century were not made by journalists who sought truth and balance in their reporting, but by those who saw themselves as being “on the right side of history,” and acted accordingly. No matter how worthy the political goal, having such an attitude is dangerous to real objective journalism, and Medill should not be encouraging it.
Anyways, this is my final post on the subject for the foreseeable future. I’ll let readers decide what they make of all this.
Addendum: this article was featured in collegeinsurrection.com. One comment on the site, posted by “JSS,” was a pretty devastating critique of Medill Equal Media’s response. I’ve reprinted it below:
Can Camille Beredjick be so oblivious?
There are tangents like:
“Our project centers on the premise that LGBT people have a lot at stake this election season.”
We all have a lot at stake this election, that doesn’t justify the media favoring a particular side.
Given the fact that she intends to rebut the argument that her paper is involved in advocacy, not journalism, she surprisingly writes, “And to the LGBT people whose voices we seek to amplify, presidential support for marriage equality is undoubtedly a big step forward.”
She begins a descent into incoherency when she writes:
“Furthermore, we’d like to remind our readers that objectivity and sensitivity are not mutually exclusive. To us, objectivity means refusing to let our personal views interfere with how we report and what topics we cover.”
As for the non-mutual exclusivity of objectivity (defined in meager and non-credible terms above) and sensitivity, she writes, “sensitivity means respecting the true stories of our sources.”
It quickly becomes clear that her notion of “sensitivity” is total acceptance:
“If we encounter LGBT people who believe they are treated unfairly under a particular law, we feel it’s our right and responsibility to publish that truth…We don’t intend to provide a platform for those parties accused of discriminatory practices—we’re here to report on the people they’ve affected.”
It’s one thing to respect the sincerity of person’s grievances and to be sensitive to their feelings and quite another to declare their grievances legitimate and refuse the accused fair opportunity to respond.
In journalism, it is proper and normal practice to permit even blatant violators of law and decency some opportunity to give their side of things. The fact that the media group sees itself as providing a “platform” for a 3rd party, rather than reporting on 3rd parties, is most revealing.
She reiterates this inflated view of her group’s mission:
“We are not in the position to ignore this truth [of discrimination], or to deny their right to share it.”
The other side, she declares are “antagonistic bullies.” I can only guess she’s still pretending this isn’t necessarily her personal view? But at least she assures they won’t be labeled “hateful bigots and extremists”! She may be drawing some distinction between various opponents of the LGBT agenda (or “truth,” as Beredjick calls it). But given the whole of her response, I don’t know what the distinction could possibly be.
Essentially, she declares her group’s advocacy not advocacy because it is “truth.” Advocates generally feel that way about their causes.
Photo by sushiesque.