"Rathergate" Is a Failure of Journalistic Objectivity
By Andrew Bernstein
The failure of Dan Rather and CBS News to properly check their sources is not merely an isolated incident of partisan politics. It is representative of a widespread rejection of objectivity within the news media.
"No serious thinker any longer believes in a verifiable, objective reality," said one newsman. An article in the Atlantic Monthly concluded that it is "better to admit from the start the inevitable subjectivity of journalism, and then to treat it as a necessary condition."
Such mainstream advocates of what is known as the "new journalism" explicitly devalue, even outright repudiate, a rigorous commitment to facts and truth in the news. As a Washington Post editor put it: "The old objectivity really wasn't the way to report."
Given such an approach, why should reporters bother to verify facts as long as a story is congruent with their political agenda?
For example, CBS News still stands by its 1988 story of "combat veterans" confessing to heinous actions in Vietnam even though careful research by an independent writer later demonstrated the utterly fabricated nature of the claims. Why should they bow before the facts?
Or why should the New York Times bother to check the truth of the claims made by Jayson Blair? After all, "objectivity really isn't the way to report."
The shocking truth of why major news organizations often do not perform the most elementary tasks of fact checking is that facts are a decidedly secondary consideration to them. Promoting their own subjective view is all that matters.