Those Other Qualities Listed on Our Amazon Product du Jour Might Be Good For Journalism Too

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Jeff Jacoby notes a lonely voice: Marty Baron, in dissent, rises in defense of objective journalism. Jeff's "old enough to remember" when his employer, the Boston Globe, had posted workplace signs stating "Accuracy is the Cornerstone of Our Business."

Is accuracy still the cornerstone of the news business? Or has that also been left behind?

Marty Baron, the former editor of the Globe, the Miami Herald, and, most recently, The Washington Post, was in town this month to discuss that very issue. In a lecture at Brandeis University, he announced his intention "to do something terribly unpopular in my profession these days" — namely, to defend the principle of objectivity in journalism. He described himself as belonging to a "diminishing minority" of journalists who still believe news should be reported without an ideological bias or partisan agenda, and lamented the "misguided and ultimately self-destructive direction" in which most of the media have veered.

In January, two grandees of the news industry — Leonard Downie, one of Baron's predecessors as editor of The Washington Post, and Andrew Heyward, a former president of CBS News — issued a report titled "Beyond Objectivity," which they compiled after interviewing scores of "news leaders, journalists, and other experts." On the first page, Downie and Heyward, who now teach at Arizona State University, describe objectivity in journalism as "outmoded." On the last page, they call it "a journalistic concept that has lost its relevance." On page after page in between, they quote editors, reporters, and journalism professors who say much the same thing.

Well, that certainly explains a lot. Since Jeff is strongly implying the Globe might find objectivity "outmoded" as well, this is a pretty brave stance.

(I should note that all of the newspapers that employed Baron were widely viewed as left-slanted during his tenure. Apparently, he thinks they've gotten worse.)

Briefly noted:

  • Well, good for WIRED author Thor Benson, who has the guts to point out The Uniquely American Future of US Authoritarianism.

    The US Republican Party has become increasingly authoritarian and extreme in recent years, and it doesn’t seem likely to moderate that in the foreseeable future. Despite performing poorly in the 2022 midterms after running many candidates the public saw as too extreme, the GOP has decided to elevate and empower far-right lawmakers like representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz.

    In Florida, books have been removed from school shelves as governor Ron DeSantis tries to reshape the public education system in his own image. Republican lawmakers around the US have passed abortion bans that put pregnant women’s lives in danger. The rights of transgender people are under attack throughout the country.

    I am not a fan of authoritarianism. I like neither Gaetz nor Greene. But Benson seems to be willfully blind to left-side authoritarianism. Were the brownshirts shouting down Judge Kyle Duncan actually closet Republicans? Are the folks busy rewriting books by Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, and (now) Agatha Christie part of the vast right-wing conspiracy?

    Don't even get me started on Covid authoritarianism, gun control, tobacco, …

  • … and, for that matter, dietary choices, as described by John Hinderaker: Beware of Liberals Bearing Bugs.

    When I tell people that liberals are working on substituting insects for meat, they often think I am imagining things. But it is true. The beachhead is “flour.” You can dry insects, turn them into powder, and put the powder into foods. This is actually starting to become common. Thus, from Italy, “Italy bans insect flour from its pasta despite the eco buzz.”

    I'm not quite as panicky about eating bugs, since I enoy lobster every so often. And if you see a red-colored product in your kitchen, check it for carmine, cochineal extract, or natural red 4,

    But, yes, food nannyism, backed by the iron fist of government, has long been a lefty domain…

  • … and, for that matter, DEI bureaucrats at institutions of higher education. Their function must not be questions, lest ye be burned at the stake! Jennifer Kabbany reports A debate on DEI will be held at MIT. The university’s DEI deans refuse to participate..

    A debate on diversity, equity and inclusion is scheduled to soon take place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    An esteemed panel of scholars will tackle the question: “Should academic DEI programs be abolished?”

    One group of individuals who will not be defending DEI at the upcoming event is the phalanx of highly paid diversity, equity and inclusion deans at MIT.

    They were asked. They declined.

    Apparently, these doyennes of diversity were all of the same opinion; they were unwilling to defend the vital importance of their phony baloney jobs. Once again, the relevant movie clip:

  • And should you be wondering if you have free will or not, Michael Huemer has A Proof of Free Will. That should settle the matter.

    The intuitive idea goes back to Epicurus (as I discovered long after I’d thought of the argument):

    “The man who says that all things come to pass by necessity cannot criticize one who denies that all things come to pass by necessity: for he admits that this too happens of necessity.”

    J.R. Lucas argued similarly:

    “Determinism … cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.”

    The intuitive idea is that determinism is self-defeating when you apply it to beliefs about the subject of free will and determinism itself. Per Epicurus, it implies that you can’t criticize anyone for believing in free will, nor (presumably) can you say that anyone should believe determinism. In its most common (physicalistic) forms, per Lucas, determinism implies that good reasons play no role in explaining why one believes determinism itself. So the determinist couldn’t hold that he himself knows determinism to be true. (My interpretation/modification of Lucas.)

    My idea was related to these. It was that in thinking about any issue, one always presupposes certain norms governing belief. E.g., that you should avoid falsehood, or that you should base beliefs on evidence. But any such norm, I think, is incompatible with the truth of determinism. So if you think determinism is true, you’re in an inherently self-defeating position: You’re committed to rejecting norms that you are implicitly presupposing.

    I think he has something there.

    I've always wondered about the folks who argue against free will. As I'm sure I've said before: doesn't the mere fact they are "arguing" presuppose that listeners are free to consider the argument, weigh the evidence presented, and either accept or reject the conclusion?

    And you'd think they'd be able to come up with an argument I would have to accept, because I would have, literally, no choice.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:31 AM EDT