In this world, to some news consumers, any mention of candidate Hillary Clinton that failed to label her a war criminal was biased. So was, to a different group of consumers, any mention of candidate Donald Trump that failed to label him a religious and cultural bigot.
It’s continuing now, months after it would have subsided for a newspaper editor in northern Louisiana, in part because the unconventional candidate Trump has become our most unconventional President Trump.
The ubiquity of punditry and advocacy publishing also has made the mainstream journalist’s work all the harder. Advocacy “news” organizations that intentionally operate outside the fair-minded middle have rejected the professional ethics long observed by mainstream journalists.
There simply no longer are broadly accepted norms about facts and the good intentions of political opponents, let alone of journalists.
I am, I assure you, a journalist who is committed to discerning the truth and to airing multiple viewpoints rather than promoting my own. Who over a lifetime in journalism has carefully avoided expressing political and ideological views. Whose only intentional bias is for the community in which I work.
The mental framework I bring to my work, my commitment to my professional ethics, has not changed in 34 years in the news business. But the playing field sure has. The middle of the field has been torched by non-stop entertainment dressed up as punditry. Overtly ideological media have changed the publishing ecosystem.
It’s as if, in a football game, we barred all plays between the 30 yard lines.
Make no mistake, journalists are biased. They’re biased because humans are biased. To argue that we journalists don’t hold biases would be akin to asserting that zebras are pink. You wouldn’t buy it.