Precinct 333

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Somebody Finally Gets It!

The St. Augustine Record recently started carrying Ann Coulter's column. While I disagree with that decision (I may be conservative, but I don't like Coulter -- give me Michelle Malkin any day), I think that the goals of having a balanced editorial/opinion page is a good one.

Needless to say, there have been protests over the decision. Some point to Coulter's recent ethnic slur against Helen Thomas and use of the term "injun" in another as part of the coarsening of politics in this country. They object to Coulter's rudeness and condescension towards her opponents. The editors of the Record, on the other hand, refer to her style as refreshing. I disagree, but only because I believe she goes too far, into an unrelenting arrogance that does more harm than good.

But that said, I found refreshing this analysis of the history of American journalism.

Their brand of journalism is not new. It was common in the 1800s and into the early part of the last century. Back then it was the norm for newspapers to practice "advocacy" journalism in which newspapers deliberately slanted their news to a particular point of views. Communities had many newspapers, some took the labor perspective, others business, some supported Protestants, others Catholics. At one time, New York City had 17 newspapers, each espousing a political tilt.

I've made the same point many times. Go back to the election of 1800. Look at the articles that appeared in print. Those papers supporting Jefferson savaged John Adams. The writers for Federalist newspapers relentlessly abused Jefferson. It was presumed that a paper was publishing the opinions and points of view of its publisher. The notion of "objective journalism" was nowhere to be seen. The result was a print media market not unlike the blogosphere today, with a multiplicity of views and voices contributing to a healthy discussion of the events and ideas of the day.

So what if Fox News is tilted right, and CNN slants left? Provided that Americans actually look at all sides, that diversity of viewpoints is good for America. It forces Americans to think critically, to question what they hear on both and to do a litte closer research. No longer do we have to accept an anchor's assurance that "that's the way it is" at the end of a newscast -- we can flip the channel, pick up a paper or magazine, or surf the Net to see what other voices are saying.

And THAT'S the way it should be.


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