Print Politics

The Press-ure’s On: No Campaign Printing For Journalists

Opinions, bumper stickers, not welcome.

An official memo sent out this week by New York Times standards editor Craig Whitney made a surprisingly intense statement against election campaign printing. In the memo, sent to Times staff, he wrote, "journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics."

Huh? And all this time, I thought journalism helped to shape and define the political climate. Silly me.

Times' writers are asked to stay away from all election campaign printing: no bumper stickers, no buttons, no waving posters at rallies, and no yard signs. In other words: keep your opinions to yourself.

Whitney went so far as to follow up with a second memo adding that journalists should not put information about their political affiliations on blogs or Facebook profiles. The editor's concern? That any such blogging or sign-waving would give a "false impression that the paper is taking sides."

Predictably, it didn't take long for the interwebs to formulate a response somewhere along the lines of, "who are you kidding, Whitney? The Times is as blue team as a publication gets! We don't need bumper sticker printing to tell us that!"

And more importantly, it seems to me that the whole concept of impartial journalism is more ideal than reality. Journalists aren't information-conveying automatons, and attempting to perpetuate such an outdated illusion is hardly to Whitney's credit.

I'd rather know a journalist's political affiliation, so that I can separate fact and opinion in an article for myself. This might not be in keeping with the handbook on ethical journalism, but it's better than pretending that reporting isn't colored red, or blue, or black, or white. Hasn't Mr. Whitney heard of postmodernism? Didn't he get the memo about 'truth' being inherently subjective?

Of course, it's the very tenuous nature of truth and representation that is contributing to the decline of the traditional newspaper, in favor of media like blogging. Maybe Mr. Whitney isn't so much trying to encourage ethical journalism as he is asking journalists to stay away from the digital media that is rocking their boat, and the election campaign printing that continues to coast while other print mediums flounder.

What do you think? Don't journalists have a right to posters and bumper stickers, too? Isn't the ability of print to represent who we are important?

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