The Journalist is a man or woman who fights to tell the American people the stories they need to hear. He or she is the modern medicine man, the 21st Century Homer, blind yet vivid in description, bellowing truth from the depths of a soul that is inherently deeper than those of the public. He or she has morals, ethics, and an understanding of the world that has been sharpened by the whetstone of higher education and has blossomed into something extraordinary and beyond even his or her own power of description. In every word that flows from his or her fingertips lie the answers to society’s problems, the story that must be told, and the omniscient cynicism that arises in the few but must be imparted to the masses. Objectivity isn’t a skill that is learned, it is a birthright, a brain function available only to the gifted, the chosen, the Journalist.
Either that, or the journalist is a mere mortal with ordinary limitations. He or she may approach each story with a predetermined tone, direction, even (heaven forbid) conclusion. When his or her fingers are on the keyboard, his or her mind might be flipping back and forth between college lessons on objectivity and his or her own impression of the person or event he or she wishes to put onto paper. And it would even be possible that the college courses might lose a few battles. Of course this journalist doesn’t exist; the other description is much, much more realistic. But if this were the case, he or she may betray his or her feelings by putting undue weight on negative aspects of topics he or she disagrees with or undue praise for issues he or she supports. In this fictitious scenario, the controlling editors of the major news networks might even cover a trip to Iraq by Obama more than one by McCain at a ratio of 200-1. But that wouldn’t happen; this journalist, these journalists, could not exist.
If I had to choose between which scenario were more apparent in the recent coverage of Governor Sarah Palin, I don’t think anyone could blame me for casting the myth of the Journalist aside. Suddenly, against years of journalistic tradition, the question of whether a mother can adequately hold public office has become a valid campaign issue. Sally Quinn, a journalist (notice the lower-case “j”) writing for the Washington Post blog, published an article on September 3rd suggesting that a Southern Baptist woman should not be President if she believes that the Bible discourages females from becoming priests and pastors, and Quinn asserts that one can link the spiritual and political beliefs of a candidate so long as they are conservative. She faults Palin for not thinking of her pregnant, unwed daughter before accepting the bid for McCain’s VP. She pushes back the rights and values that feminists have been fighting for since the dawn of the 20th century, and she is not alone.
The questions came from every major network, and the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post all published pointed articles about Bristol Palin and her teenage pregnancy. Even those journalists who attempted to stay clear of the family’s personal issues published articles like those seen in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Kansas City Star that questioned the “vetting process” of the McCain campaign to avoid the talking about the pregnancy by talking about how much McCain knew about it before hand (which forced them to dedicate a large portion of these articles to background information on Bristol Palin.)
If the media would like to discredit claims of bias, perhaps they should do their own investigation into the percentage of favorable stories they give Republicans and Democrats. In an election where the majority of the voting public views both candidate favorably, how can networks like NBC justify running favorable stories of Obama at a 6/1 ratio and not do the same for McCain? If the Journalists would like to discredit reports from organizations such as the Media Research Counsel, I would like to see their own numbers. Until then, I find questions of their journalistic integrity to be just as pressing as questions of Palin’s parenting skills.