Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reporter fired for being objective?

If this isn't one of the signs of the apocalypse, it's certainly a sign of the death of journalism as we knew it. Jason Linkins of HuffingtonPost.com (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/17/reporter-sacked-for-his-i_n_465528.html) writes an article about a journalist who was fired from his job for clinging to the notions of objective reporting and, indeed, the existence of an objective reality.

No, seriously, that's what his BOSS said in firing him.

Now, the paper he was fired from is an unabashed liberal/progressive publication, so I suppose if they want to be in the business of opinion-making (or, in other words, being like FOX News) then they have a right to avoid those nasty facts. But to actually have the gall (or, quite honestly, the stupidity) to admit so in public should shame and discredit the rag permanently.

Look, as readers here know, I'm pretty lefty. I agree with a lot of things this rag wants to do. But the kind of propaganda FOX News has been spewing has been poisonous to the process as a whole. It's just as wrong when someone wants to put out propaganda that I happen to agree with, and it's worth just as much contempt as the Glenn Beck channel.

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Hamilton Nolan made note yesterday of a reporter fired for reasons that can only be called bogus and aggravating.

The reporter in question was Jonathan Springston, a four-year veteran of the Atlanta Progressive News. Springston was sacked as part of some wide-ranging online reboot, but he wasn't let go because his position was made redundant (though the paper apparently has no plan on hiring a replacement). Rather, he was fired because of an apparent insistence on fact-based reporting.

That this was the reason is troubling. That his editor, Matthew Cardinale, copped to it, is insane.

Here's the key excerpt from the response that Cardinale gave to Atlanta's Creative Loafing, when their Andisheh Nouraee asked about this:

Jonathan Springston served as Staff Writer, then Senior Staff Writer for a total of four years. During that time, he has grown as a writer and has produced a lot of content which has served to inform our readership on issues ranging from Troy Davis to Grady Hospital.

As many of our readers know, we are in the midst of a major website redesign and relaunch that will result in new content and new forms of content, as well as tools to empower our readers to meaningfully participate in the democratic process. Part of that has meant going back to our core mission and re-examining how every part of what we do is consistent with, and advances, that mission.

In the end, we had to make a very difficult decision to move forward as a publication without Jonathan Springston. Last Wednesday, we informed him it seemed more appropriate if he found work with another publication or started his own publication.

At a very fundamental, core level, Springston did not share our vision for a news publication with a progressive perspective. He held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News. It just wasn't the right fit.

Cardinale goes on to cite his paper's FAQ, which informs that "Progressive news is news that brings us closer to universal health care, living wages, affordable housing, peace, a healthy environment, and voting systems we can trust."

Now, I like things like universal health care and affordable housing and et cetera. But if your strongly argued point of view on those matters is founded in a reality that you have just decided to invent out of whole cloth, then what you are delivering is not news. At best, you are creating an echo chamber for like-minded people to enter and feel comforted. At worst, you are treating this important issues with the same intelligence as birtherism.

People who work tirelessly to properly advocate for things like health care reform accept that they have a challenging case to make, that making that case is hard work, and that the case is best made when you are operating within the constraints of objective reality.

Cardinale would do himself a lot of good if he spent some time reflecting on the origin of the phrase "reality-based community." In the meantime, advocates of universal health care and the like will have to note that citing the Atlanta Progressive News is going to undermine their efforts.

1 comment:

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