A pox on “A pox on both their houses”

By Christopher B. Daly 

I spend a lot of my waking hours at the intersection of Journalism and History, two empirical fields that share a lot of DNA. It’s an interesting place to hang out, and I wish more of the residents of each street would roam around more on the other street.

Today, a story in TPM about an item on a blog known as the 20Committee, nicely frames an issue that highlights one of the distinctions between the disciplines of journalism and history. The upshot is that journalists do us all a disservice when, in the name of non-partisanship or “fairness,” they throw up their hands and blame Democrats and Republicans equally for behaving in ways that are partisan, counter-productive, hypocritical or the like. As a former political journalist myself, I know this phenomenon well, and I know where it comes from: it is an adaptation to the pressure many American journalists feel to write as if they have no stake in the outcome, to show an aloof indifference to cause or candidate or party.

Many journalists, particularly in the mainstream media who work in the reporting tradition, apply this technique to coverage of hard problems like Obamacare or fracking or political spending. This is the problem often referred to as “false equivalence” or “false balance.”

But, I would submit, no historian who studies our current period in the future would be caught dead doing that. Every historian of our present situation will look at essentially the same facts and will exercise judgment.

[I will further predict that 95 percent of them will conclude that our current messes are the fault of Republicans. But, to use another favorite journalistic evasion, Only time will tell.]

Shutterstock/ Christos Georghiou

Shutterstock/
Christos Georghiou

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

Filed under broadcasting, CNN, Fox News, history, Journalism, journalism history, media, Politics, publishing

One response to “A pox on “A pox on both their houses”

  1. David

    This is an excellent point. What makes it particularly important is that the Right has simultaneously been able to intimidate so much of the media into false equivalence by leveling charges of media bias, while both engaging in full throttle bias via the Murdoch Empire and launching hundreds of millions of dollars of Koch/Adelson etc attack ads.

    Historians will note the similarity of this to Germany and Japan entering into disarmament treaties after WW I which the US and Britain followed, but they did not.

    Of course, there is the leftist MSNBC, but employing Al Sharpton is trading false equivalence for false, which is worse.

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