Accuracy is no longer the point of journalism.

This, from Politico, is basically an admission that accuracy does not matter to their brand of political reporting. Only neutrality matters. Dylan Byers is upset at what he sees as an unfair difference between media coverage of Ted Cruz’s current talking (it’s not technically a filibuster) and Wendy Davis’s filibuster in the Texas state legislature:

These portrayals may be accurate or inaccuarate — Cruz certainly has an elitist strain and he certainly has political ambitions. But that’s not the point: the point is that the coverage of Cruz has been critical, and in some cases unforgiving, from the outset.

Look, at some point being a reporter involves not just being a stenographer. You have to decide if Cruz deserves criticism or not. The pieces cited by Politico were opinion pieces and were open about their biases. They took the relevant facts and decided that Cruz 1) has no chance of actually changing policy, 2) Cruz knows this, 3) Cruz is doing it because it improves his position for 2016, and 4) Cruz is widely disliked both inside and outside of the Republican party. In their judgment, those are relevant differences between Cruz and Davis. Politico can argue either that those aren’t relevant differences, or that the other news coverage has its facts wrong, but it makes no sense to argue that those facts should be ignored because they might make Davis look better than Cruz.  Neutrality is not the point of journalism; accuracy is.

If the statements are inaccurate then call them out. But arguing that the media shouldn’t point out facts because it makes one politician (Cruz) look worse than a politician of a different party (Davis) is arguing that journalists should simply be stenographers. In that case, I guess all we need is C-SPAN. Journalism (and any human activity) will always involve making judgments. The goal is to be open about those judgments and accurate about the facts underlying them. A bias towards neutrality is just as damaging to truth as a bias towards either side. In fact, it’s frequently worse, because it so often is unacknowledged by both the author and the audience.


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