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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Lesson of Helen Thomas - Reporters Should Hide Their Biases

The biggest problem with the Helen Thomas story is that she kept it under wraps for so long.

Anyone who watched a presidential press conference knew she was hostile to Israel, but the depth of that hostility was not known.

We have created a media culture where inappropriate or politically incorrect thoughts cannot be spoken, not by journalists, talk show hosts, politicians, or anyone else who wants to keep their job.

This time, it swung around to hit someone on the left.

Usually, it swings around to hit someone in the center or right.

By forcing journalists to keep their biases to themselves for fear of job loss, we do nothing to address the bias.

We simply drive the thoughts underground, where they percolate to the surface in the form of biased reporting by a supposedly unbiased reporter.

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  1. How can we possibly address the bias of anti-Semitism? Of racism? Of hating someone because they aren't Muslim (or insert any other religion)? People are people, and people, whether we like it or not, tend to randomly and often without reason hate certain groups and support others. We can't purge or police thoughts, but we can respond responsibly when someone in a position of power or in the press (formerly powerful) spews disgusting filth like Helen Thomas did. She never tried to hide her anti-semitism. Indeed, she wore it on her sleeve as a twisted badge of honor (much like a swastika?).

    People reacted to that with their own biases (pro-Israeli or anti-Muslim). Nothing was pushed underground this time, and while it's nice to think that we can somehow eliminate bias with some kind of Oprah-sponsored share-fest, we can't.

    Journalism cannot be free from bias because people cannot be free from it (yes, journalists are people, too, heh). What they can do is report facts as facts rather than opining on them or selecting which facts deserve attention and which don't, that's where journalism has gone astray. They stopped seeing their job as informing the public and started seeing it as shaping public opinion. I don't need to be told what to think or how to process information, what conclusions to draw, and certainly not by a horrible old Jew-hating shrew like Thomas. What I need is information. I will then process it myself . . . through the filter of my own biases and beliefs.

  2. The whiny thumb suckers had no problem interfering in Rush's freedom to contract when he wanted to buy into a pro football team because of objectionable speech they attributed to him. Of course, the words they claimed he said he never uttered. It was determined to be a false smear intended to harm him, his reputation, and his business endeavors.

    But when Helen Thomas is on video unambiguously egaging in anti-semitic bigotry, the same thumb suckers are whining about how she was punished for engaging in free speech.

    Double standard?

  3. Bill

    Just a nit here. you seem to argue that reporters shouldn't hide their biases, or else in darkness it can grow worse... so shouldn't the headline be "Reporters should NOT hide their biases"?

  4. It's not the fact of bias -- that's unavoidable.

    It's the nasty, poisonous, sheer depth of evil of this particular bias.

  5. Would it be ethical of a journalist to do reporting of facts qua facts but to author a book with bias?

    I have A.W.'s question.

    Here are the standards and code of ethics that vary in some ways from organization to organization (Wikipedia)

    While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.[3][4][5][6]

    Like many broader ethical systems, journalism ethics include the principle of "limitation of harm." This often involves the withholding of certain details from reports such as the names of minor children, crime victims' names or information not materially related to particular news reports release of which might, for example, harm someone's reputation.[7][8]

    Some journalistic Codes of Ethics, notably the European ones,[9] also include a concern with discriminatory references in news based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disabilities.[10][11][12][13] The European Council approved in 1993 Resolution 1003 on the Ethics of Journalism which recommends journalists to respect yet the presumption of innocence, in particular in cases that are still sub ju

  6. Thomas apparently did not keep her antisemitism under wraps. Her colleagues kept her views under wraps by not confronting her publicly in the first place. And many have not yet confronted her.

    This is what you get when Liberals dominate, as they do in Journalism.

  7. On 6/7/2010 - Allapundit had these words from Julie Mason, WH Correspondent for the Washington Examiner that are superb and right on target:

    [W]ith those comments, we lost an icon. Because all of the foregoing — being the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member of the White House Correspondents Association — and its first female president — none of that is enough to give her a pass.

    It’s not enough to have spent a lifetime being an awesome, trailblazing journalistic and feminist icon. Because longer still than the shadow cast by such a great career is the one cast by the Holocaust. There are still people living in this country — and many others, not the least of which is Israel — who have numbers tattooed on their arms from concentration camps. People who remember seeing their mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters torn away from them and packed on trains taking them to their deaths. People who couldn’t go back to where their families came from in Germany or Poland even if they wanted to, because entire villages were wiped out…

    I wish Helen Thomas hadn’t said those things, and I truly wish she hadn’t thought them. But she did. Which means that, sad as I am, Helen Thomas can no longer be a hero to me.