Is Politico as partisan as The Weekly Standard?

Today is Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton’s last day. You can read his memo to staff here.

To mark it, I’m ruminating on a Twitter exchange I happened across last night. So telling. It begins with John McCormack, a reporter for The Weekly Standard, writing:

Politico article on abortion issue includes two quotes–one from Planned Parenthood and one, for balance, from ACLU

It’s a particularly bad example of what we see on abortion coverage every day, as well as coverage of many other hot-button issues commonly found on beats linked to religion and politics. Even though this is only six paragraphs long, it’s a bad example.

But what I found interesting was the response from Andrew Kaczynski, a reporter for the supposedly mainstream Buzzfeed:

Lot of balance in those Weekly Standard Chuck Hagel stories.

This is a reference to The Weekly Standard‘s work opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. But the Standard (where my better half works) is an avowedly conservative opinion journal. It’s whole purpose is to spread adoption of a particular set of conservative values.

Do you see the problem here?

BuzzFeed and Politico (and the Washington Post, and countless other media outlets) present themselves as mainstream media outlets doing straight news. I’ll let Twitter do my work for me:

@QuinHillyer Weekly Standard is an opinion journal. Politico claims to be straight news. Big difference in what’s expected

@McCormackJohn Well, at least they’re more balanced than Buzzfeed’s articles on gay marriage. Also: We don’t pretend we’re not ideological.

@IMAO_ He’s very clearly saying that Politico is as partisan as the Weekly Standard.

We’ve been talking about this a lot recently, because it’s a major change in the stated objectives of mainstream media. This is also a topic closely linked to media-bias studies about religion news.

These outlets still claim to be doing news reporting in some sectors, but they are now becoming much more honest about their extreme partisanship and lack of objectivity and fairness on other issues. I can put it no better than tmatt already has:

When it comes to the daily news, the recently retired editor of The New York Times has decided there is news and then there is news about religion and social issues.

The honesty coming from all quarters is refreshing, but it is also challenging. When outlets that used to present themselves as performing straight news admit they run press releases for the causes they’re piously devoted to, we may need a new paradigm for understanding the service they’re providing. How, for example, do you do accurate, balanced political reporting if you have already decided there is no need to be balanced on stories about religion and morality?

So, readers, how do you react to this new honesty coming from many quarters?

  • Patrick

    I think, as a product, straight news simply can’t compete with partisanship. Despite the fact that more information is available online than ever before, news offices are closing all over the world. I think journalists, who viewpoint is considered to grow to the experience of newsgathering, do less information gathering than ever, and as a result seem less capable than ever of understanding the world they live in. I think all this blog-posts-masquerading-as-news is what you get when journalists have to Google for context, just like the rest of us.

  • sari

    mollie,
    Old fogie that I am, I can remember the liberal Washington Post and the very conservative Washington Times when I lived in the D.C. area twenty-five years ago. Likewise, the NYT’s conservative counterpart was the Wall Street Journal. I recently read *The Patriarch*, a well-regarded, for the masses biography of Joseph P. Kennedy. The author clearly describes the relationship between Kennedy, Hearst, politics, and how Hearst used his paper to promote a very particular ideology. In other words, impartial, balanced journalism appears to have been the standard for a very short time, and, even then, it slanted, if for no other reason than that reporters were made to understand that certain subjects were taboo–slant by omission. No longer are they required to hold the majority religion in great esteem while ignoring (at best) or lambasting the rest. Nor are they restrained from comment on what it means to be an American.

  • Mattk

    I am more than a little surprised that we are still having this conversation about media bias. I remember reading in Frank Schaeffers’s 1984 book “A Time For Anger: The Myth of Neutrality” that the media was hideously biased. That was 30 years ago and the conversation continues. I think it continues because the side that is so wickedly biased keep denying it is biased, and the sheep keep believing the wolves.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Many in the MSM really believe that they are “mainstream” and unbiased. It’s an enormous blind spot.


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