At the Cambridge Reporter meetup on Tuesday, an interesting discussion sprang up about transparency of media bias.
Here’s what I said, more or less:
No-one is truly objective. I’d rather know where my media talking heads are coming from than to try to decipher disingenuous attempts at sounding un-biased. In other words, journalists should wear their opinions, political and otherwise, on their sleeves in the interest of transparency and fairness. I also said that I’d rather have Bill O’Reilly anchor the nightly news on Fox and Keith Olbermann anchor the news on NBC because at least then I know how much salt to apply and where. Williams, Kouric, etc, have zero credibility for me because I don’t know where they stand.
In the Canadian context, there are no O’Reillys or Olbermanns that I’m aware of because even our commentators bend over backwards to apply criticism evenly. Rex Murphy would be so much more credible, for example, if he was open about his true opinion – not to mention Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson.
When I watch Steve Paikin on The Agenda with reps from each party – I constantly wonder – who’s he secretly rooting for here? Because he is – he’s human.
Why is it that Jon Stewart is increasingly becoming the primary source of political news for my demographic? Part of it is his humour to be sure – but part of it also is that he’s not afraid to let his guests and his audiences know where he’s coming from. He’s not bound by archaic and deceptive ‘code of journalism’ that expects the press to pretend they are doing the impossible – be objective.
I remember watching the 1995 Quebec Referendum through the national media because, though a Montrealer by birth, I had since moved to central Ontario. I distinctly remember watching Quebecois journalists on CBC and CTV reporting on the campaigns in their diluted, objective way and screaming at them in my head to “Please just tell me what you think! I’m not there – you are!”
Chantal Hebert is well respected journalist in Quebec – but I can’t trust a single thing she says about the Bloc Quebecois because I have no idea where she stands on the sovereignty issue. I’ve heard her both praise and criticize the BQ on tactics but those are delivered through a Quebecoise filter that either agrees or disagrees with the Bloc in principle. So which is it? Are they right or wrong? I can’t trust you, Chantal, if I don’t know you.
So that was a little more than what I said the other night, but you get the idea.
My question to you, then, is this:
Should we allow and encourage the members of the press to shed their artificial objectivity in the interest of transparency and full reporting?