Skip to comments.New York Times Controversy Exposes the Inherent Conflict in Advocacy Journalism
Posted on 11/05/2023 7:00:32 AM PST by george76
Jazmine Hughes, a writer for the New York Times Magazine, resigned this week after a conflict with her editors over signing of an anti-Israeli letter. New York Times Magazine Editor Jake Silverstein said Hughes violated the company’s policy on public protest. The incident exposes the inherent conflicts — and hypocrisy — in the shift away from neutrality in reporting in media companies and graduate programs.
I have long been a critic of what I called “advocacy journalism” as it began to emerge in journalism schools. These schools encourage students to use their “lived expertise” and to “leave neutrality behind.” Instead, of neutrality, they are pushing “solidarity [as] ‘a commitment to social justice that translates into action.’”
For example, we previously discussed the release of the results of interviews with over 75 media leaders by former executive editor for The Washington Post Leonard Downie Jr. and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward. They concluded that objectivity is now considered reactionary and even harmful. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor-in-chief at the San Francisco Chronicle said it plainly: “Objectivity has got to go.”
Saying that “Objectivity has got to go” is, of course, liberating. You can dispense with the necessities of neutrality and balance. You can cater to your “base” like columnists and opinion writers. Sharing the opposing view is now dismissed as “bothsidesism.” Done. No need to give credence to opposing views. It is a familiar reality for those of us in higher education, which has been increasingly intolerant of opposing or dissenting views.
Downie recounted how news leaders today
“believe that pursuing objectivity can lead to false balance or misleading “bothsidesism” in covering stories about race, the treatment of women, LGBTQ+ rights, income inequality, climate change and many other subjects. And, in today’s diversifying newsrooms, they feel it negates many of their own identities, life experiences and cultural contexts, keeping them from pursuing truth in their work.”
There was a time when all journalists shared a common “identity” as professionals who were able to separate their own bias and values from the reporting of the news.
Now, objectivity is virtually synonymous with prejudice. Kathleen Carroll, former executive editor at the Associated Press declared “It’s objective by whose standard? … That standard seems to be White, educated, and fairly wealthy.”
In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.” Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.”
Lauren Wolfe, the fired freelance editor for the New York Times, has not only gone public to defend her pro-Biden tweet but published a piece titled “I’m a Biased Journalist and I’m Okay With That.”
Former New York Times writer (and now Howard University Journalism Professor) Nikole Hannah-Jones is a leading voice for advocacy journalism.
Indeed, Hannah-Jones has declared “all journalism is activism.”
At the same time, outlets like National Public Radio have abandoned the rule that journalists should not engage in public protests.
NPR declared that it would allow employees to participate in political protests when the editors believe the causes advance the “freedom and dignity of human beings.” So it remained up to the editors if a reporter could join a pro-life protest (unlikely) or a pro-gun control protest (very likely).
Hughes represents this new generation of reporters that have been told for years to leave neutrality behind on a newspaper that fired editors for publishing an opinion piece by a conservative senator.
Siverstein stated “while I respect that she has strong convictions, this was a clear violation of The Times’s policy on public protest. This policy, which I fully support, is an important part of our commitment to independence.”
Hughes signed a letter dated Oct. 26 titled “Writers Against the War on Gaza,” that declared “Israel’s war against Gaza is an attempt to conduct genocide against the Palestinian people.”
The letter specifically criticized the New York Times for an editorial supporting Israel and criticized “establishment media outlets” who call the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas “unprovoked.”
The letter stated “We cannot write a free Palestine into existence, but together we must do all we possibly can to reject narratives that soothe Western complicity in ethnic cleansing.”
I can understand why writers like Hughes are confused. Media outlets like NPR will allow them to protest if the editors agree with their causes while NY Times pledges that it will not publish the views of senators on protests while publishing foreign figures accused of unspeakable acts against protesters or academics who have said that they are fine with killing conservatives.
Of course, none of this is sustainable for the industry.
What is most striking about this universal shift toward advocacy journalism (including at journalism schools) is that there is no evidence that it is a sustainable approach for the media as an industry. While outfits like NPR allow reporters to actually participate in protests and the New York Times sheds conservative opinions, the new polling shows a sharp and worrisome division in trust in the media. Not surprisingly, given the heavy slant of American media, Democrats are largely happy with and trusting of the media. Conversely, Republicans and independents are not. The question is whether the mainstream media can survive and flourish by writing off over half of the country.
A 2021 study from the non-partisan Pew Research Center showed a massive decline in trust among Republicans. Five years ago, 70 percent of Republicans said they had at least some trust in national news organizations. In 2021, that trust was down to just 35 percent. Conversely, and not surprisingly, 78 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the media. When you just ask liberal Democrats, it jumps to 83 percent.
This latest polling shows that the problem is only getting more acute for the media.
Yet, instead of denouncing the shift to advocacy journalism, media outlets are seeking to simply maintain a selective, NPR-like line of what advocacy is to be allowed, even fostered.
Notably, hundreds of journalists signed this letter but Hughes is the only one known to have left her position with their media company. We previously discussed how hundreds of writers and editors signed a petition to censor Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett (citing their publishing company affiliations).
The problem for the NY Times is not severing ties with Hughes over her public advocacy, but the paper’s embrace of such advocacy in coverage, including its recent controversy over spreading false claims that Israel clearly bombed a hospital causing hundreds of deaths in Gaza.
If editors are actively telling young reporters to “leave neutrality behind,” they can hardly be surprised when writers like Hughes sign these letters.
Jazmine, huh? Another programmed Disney princess?
This is not new.
The Left does not want any restrictions on their behavior.
But just wait until some pop journos come out as Trumpsters.
This has been going on for several decades now and, as the article states, it begins in the “journalism” schools. It’s simply another result of the feminization of everything. Rather than wanting to discover and report the facts, reporters now want to “make the world a better place.” I once worked for a print publication, and the more women that were hired — the editorial staff shifted noticeably from male to female over the years — the further left it drifted.
But what would be news is if Republicans refuse to acknowledge and participate with organizations that are biased. And even better, removes federal funding for organizations that haver chosen a side liked NPR.
The problem is that there is a group of Republican politicians, like Lindsay Graham, who like getting on TV and being the token Republican (not Conservative)
Until we as party members and the leadership punish Republicans that support the media, there will be no change
This standard has been destroyed by the depravity of the Left who sees every heresy against their cult as an evil to be eradicated.
Disgusting... and these people wonder why citizens trust used car salespeople MORE than they trust 'journalists'... Glad she was fired.
Being a “biased journalist” is a contradiction of terms. A biased journalist is nothing more than an advocate for one viewpoint without considering, let alone exploring or describing a countering view, and therefore becoming an illegitimate journalist. Journalists report the news, not make it.
Thanks for your service! I was USAF also - aircraft instrumentation. And thanks also to your son or daughter.
And in my experience from maintenance debriefings, the pilots genuinely respected the enlisted people who repaired the airplanes.
"Advocacy Journalism" is an oxymoron. Genuine journalism advocates only for the facts. Accuracy first, accuracy last, and accuracy always. To advocate for anything other than THE FACTS is to propagandize.
Does that mean that the propaganda industry will die? Bring it.
Acquaint yourself with “The 45 Goals of Communism for America”. These were enumerated in the 50’s and we have ignored and accepted them almost to the point of our own destruction. It’s not too late, but we’re pretty damn close.
Not new, but these people are NOT journalists in any sense of the word.
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