Opinion: Balanced Journalism- A “Trope” which “Must be Crushed”

This article was originally published on Sep 6

By Charles Rollet

The Medill Equal Media Project, directed by Northwestern’s branch of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, is meant to cover LGBT communities and issues in the run-up to the presidential election. It is supposed to do so fairly and accurately, and is not intended to be an advocacy project.

Yet I cannot help but be skeptical of its objectivity, having read “NC Equal Media,” a side blog of the Project which ran from Aug 21 to 31, and covered two of the Project’s authors trip reporting in North Carolina.

I did not found it neutral, unsurprisingly. But a post titled “More than Both Sides” showed the project’s true colours more than any other. Read this paragraph from the blog (emphasis mine):

Surely, some may be wondering why we didn’t interview the homophobes and opponents of LGBT people. Isn’t it our responsibility as reporters to get all sides of the story? Not necessarily. The “both sides” argument is an old journalistic trope that needs to be crushed. We’re not trying to force a hackneyed dichotomy in our stories – the old gay vs. anti-gay formula has been beaten to death. It has no resolution and no purpose, and we can imagine what it looks like without even putting pen to paper.

I find it interesting that the author here added the caveat claiming she wasn’t “trying to force a hackneyed dichotomy” in the blog’s stories, when this is exactly what NC Equal Media’s posts do.

From the blog posts I’ve read, all people are either categorized as “allies” in LGBT peoples’ fight for equality (read: gay marriage) or “homophobes” / “opponents of LGBT people.” The only mention in this blog of people who likely oppose gay marriage are a bunch of religious nuts protesting a Pride rally in Charlotte, spouting hate. How balanced. And a post called “Pride and heterosexual privilege” ruminated on the privilege of “cisgender” people, something which seems to me more appropriate for a sociology class than unbiased reporting.

The author’s excuse for being so one-sided? I quote: Instead of seeking some semblance of balance by finding the meanest, nastiest homophobe in North Carolina, we found diversity just in the people who supported our cause.”

It’s that easy! Journalism 101: be sure to get a ‘diversity’ of views, but make absolutely sure those people are already supporting your cause! Read the whole NC Equal Media blog for yourself (as I have done), and tell me with a straight face that this sort of writing will lead to impartial, non-advocacy journalism.

There are plenty of choice quotes which prove this project is far from objective.

For example: the authors openly admit their support for gay marriage in a supposedly non-political assignment. In a post on the main Medill Equal Media Project website called “North Carolina after Amendment One,” the authors of NC Equal Media write: “Although presidential support for marriage equality is a big step forward, states across the country have, like North Carolina, taken several steps back.”

Exactly how is calling Pres Obama’s support of marriage equality a “big step forward” not advocacy? If this sort of writing came from a conservative perspective, it would never pass Medill’s objectivity litmus test.

The irony here is that I am a staunch supporter of gay marriage. But journalists who call their reporting apolitical must be apolitical. And most importantly, journalists covering important matters objectively should not be writing that “the ‘both sides’ argument is an old journalistic trope that needs to be crushed.” This runs counter to everything Medill, as a school of journalism, should be teaching its students.

The authors’ response is that they will only be profiling LGBT people and their struggles, not their opponents, which – in itself – is legitimate. But having read NC Equal Media, it is clear to me that the more subtle goal is to castigate all people opposed to gay marriage as hateful bigots and extremists, a typically Leftist way of conducting an argument.

And either way, non-advocacy journalism should never have authors openly supporting a side of the political struggles they are reporting on.

I honestly hope the actual Medill Equal Media Project, which is arriving in October, will not be as biased as NC ‘Equal’ Media was.

In all this, the real outrage is that while Medill sponsors this sort of ‘reporting,’ it gleefully promotes its shiny new campus in Qatar- a country in which homosexuality is completely illegal.

I have yet to hear a whimper of protest from the Medill community about that.

EDIT: Both writers of the NC Equal Media blog have responded to this article. Click hereThe Medill Equal Media Project has responded as well.

photo: sushieque

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