Journalism Dies in Self-Importance

Lance Morrow in The City Journal:

I suppose it’s true that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the Washington Post’s slogan says. But journalism may also die, by morphing into forms that can no longer be described as journalism. Journalism may come to mean a crooked scandal sheet, or high-minded propaganda. Sometimes squalor and self-righteousness are equally disreputable. The Post’s apothegm, somehow off-kilter, with its alliteration and self-importance, was a purposeful bit of branding, designed to claim high ground and to poke a thumb in President Trump’s eye every morning. Such partisan intent detracts from the slogan’s claim to universality. The self-serving implication—the notion that, against the Darkness, the Washington Postrepresents the Light—invites the reader to respond (as readers have always responded to the Chicago Tribune’s slogan, “The World’s Greatest Newspaper”) by muttering, “I’ll be the judge of that, pal.”

The other day, Ted Koppel, a voice from the late-twentieth-century practice of journalism, spoke about what has become of his old business in the age of Trump. “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were,” Koppel said, in an understatement. The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates. “We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,” Koppel said. “We’re talking about organizations that . . . have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.”

Both papers have in effect declared a state of emergency because of Trump and have granted themselves the editorial equivalent of dictatorial powers. Doing so may be as ill-advised with newspapers as with elected officials. When journalists don’t consider themselves bound to old norms of objectivity, there comes an absence of restraint that is inherently corrupting. The morning story conference takes on the atmosphere of a rally of zealots. The newspaper becomes the Pequod: President Trump is the white whale.

More here.

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