We have been discussing the movement in journalism to discard out-dated notions of objectivity and define journalism as a form of advocacy. Now, Lauren Wolfe, the recently fired freelance editor for the New York Times, has not only gone public to defend her pro-Biden tweet but published a piece titled “I’m a Biased Journalist and I’m Okay With That.” It is a full-throated endorsement of the new journalistic model of open bias and advocacy. Indeed, Wolfe may have only been undone by her expressly declaring bias as opposed to reflecting bias in her writings.
Wolfe was fired by the Times after she expressed the joy of watching the arrival of then-President-elect Joe Biden at Joint Base Andrews ahead of his inauguration by writing “I have chills.”
Now, in her column in the Washington Monthly, Wolfe insists that there is nothing incompatible with being biased and being a journalist. Indeed, she noted ever since she began as a journalist “angry people come out of their hidey-holes to yell at me.” It is certainly true that writers today are constantly barraged by trolls and critics. However, Wolfe then proceeded to fulfill that very stereotype by embracing bias as right and good in journalism. She attacks the very notion of objectivity that was once the touchstone of modern journalism.
“I’ve always believed it is better to be open about my views on the issues I cover, which for a long time have been war and international human rights. And yes, I often do write with an agenda—with an eye toward creating change. So yes, I am biased, and consciously so when it comes to certain subjects—especially when I’m reporting on criminality. But I don’t see that as a bad thing.”
According to Wolfe, the “bad thing” is the “relentless need to find objective balance” by news organization which “has actually led to dangerous imbalance—with outlets too often giving as much space to lies as to facts.”
It is the liberal version of the “fake news” mantra.
Views that you reject are “lies” and thus you cannot publish lies as a journalist. Done.
While Wolfe insists in the end that “I work very hard to create unbiased journalism—that’s what a professional does,” she makes objectivity itself into a form of journalistic malpractice. She is not alone. Everyone agrees that journalists like other professionals have bias. However, the defining struggle of modern journalist was overcoming bias to report objectively on news stories. The new journalistic model flips that principle on its head. Now the bias is simply a preference for the truth and thus it is perfectly appropriate to frame news according to what you believe is true and correct.
We have have been discussing how writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. Even journalists are leading attacks on free speech and the free press. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that the journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.” Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.”
These journalists are killing their very profession. While many now prefer to get their news for echo journalistic sources that offer consistent and confirming coverage, most people are not interested in learning about news through the filter of what Wolfe considers valid. For years, we have been discussing the decline of journalism values with the rise of open bias in the media. Now, a newly released report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford has found something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. The plunging level of trust reflects the loss of the premier news organizations to a type of woke journalism.
The Wolfe firing was a surprise given the New York Times’ heavy bias shown in the Cotton controversy and the tolerance shown for conspiracy theories from other writers. However, Wolfe’s defense sounds a lot like the closing argument of her editors in justifying her termination.