I went poking around the Editor & Publisher site to see if they decided to acknowledge that the Pulitzer list Joe Strupp crowed about having on Monday appeared here two days earlier. They hadn't, but I did come across a letter written by a once-familiar name in L.A. media circles. Evan Maxwell and his wife, Ann Maxwell, are still known to many here through their books.
Journalistic Objectivity Is a Sham
Published: February 18, 2004
Steve Outing's interesting piece on blogs got me to reflecting on my 20 years as a daily reporter (at the Los Angeles Times) which ended some 20 years ago.
The older I get, and the further I get away from the newsroom, the more I believe that much of the 20th century journalistic emphasis on objectivity was not well-placed. It came, I think, from the effort by newspaper owners (and their minions, the editors) to make their product appeal to as broad a segment of the population as possible. More readers, more profits. To get more readers, you have to emasculate the product, homogenize it, make it palatable by seeming to centrifuge all opinion (read controversial or upsetting opinion) out of it. The result was a kind of pablum that seems high-minded and worthy but is, in actuality, a scam, a sham or a quasi-religion.
The antipathy for blogging is another reflection of that. Journalism wants to scrub out of its practitioners all appearances of individual opinion, much like the army scrubs idiosyncrasy out of new recruits. The soldiers who do the best job of internalizing these principles become officers (editors). The analogy could work about as well with the church.
But the process goes against both human nature and a proper appreciation of human mental activity. We all have opinions, and the misguided effort to suppress them leads to hypocrisy and lots of other unhealthy things. The Web, with its ability to publish all kinds of opinion at the cost of a few electrons, is ultimately threatening to the institutions and corporations which rely on their monopoly of the means of publishing. I can put together a Web log and distribute it even more cheaply than the old broadsides used to be published and distributed. It is completely revolutionizing communication, and The Establishment is very, very uneasy with that revolution.
There, now. I feel better. Thanks for the trigger that set me off.