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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Thursday, November 1 2001  

The myth of media "neutrality"

It's ironic that while I was discussing my years in media studies and was wearing my media critic hat, on Wednesday the head of Disney Company's ABC Television network was forced to recant an outrageous statement he made to journalism students in New York based on faulty journalism theory and equally bad—or worse—judgment. According to the Drudge Report that broke the story, "ABC News President David Westin, 48, an attorney who joined ABC as general counsel in 1991 and came to ABC News with no journalism or hands-on television production experience, found himself at the center of a growing media firestorm after saying he had no opinion (concerning whether) the Pentagon was a legitimate target for terrorists."

Disney spokespeople quickly assured reporters that, even though some in the company were angered by Westin's remarks, no pressure was exerted on him to apologize from the media and entertainment conglomerate's headquarters. Meanwhile, a poll of web surfers taken by Vote.com found 90 percent of respondents calling for Westin's resignation from his top media job (at this writing, 19,000 of 21,000 respondents to the poll).

What's faulty in Westin's journalism theory is the idea that journalists should be "neutral" in their reporting. Assuming they're human, it's impossible to be impartial or neutral, and pretending to do so is only pretense or, in cases of malicious intent, intentionally hiding true biases and feelings.

Of course lots of news is approached by reporters with detachment; most "stories" fall into that category because most events are not inherently controversial. Most stories are usually, to the reporter, just work. But in coverage of controversial issues like the attack on the Pentagon, terrorism, abortion, personal and civil rights, corruption in civil or elective agencies and a host of others, it would be immoral not to have a stance, and it is rare when it's less than obvious what the writer's bias is on the issue from the slant and the inclusion and exclusion of "facts" and anectdotes chosen to tell the story. And if this is true, it behooves media people not to "hint" at their biases but be honest about them. Then, if they are to deserve the trust the public invests in them, they should take every reasonable effort they can to assure that a diversity of opinions gets on the air or into print by inviting and giving reasonable exposure to opposing views.

In his recantation, Westin said: "I gave an answer to journalism students to illustrate the broad, academic principle that all journalists should draw a firm line between what they know and what their personal opinion might be. Upon reflection, I realized that my answer did not address the specifics of September 11. Under any interpretation, the attack on the Pentagon was criminal and entirely without justification. I apologize for any harm that my misstatement may have caused."

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

The morning after

Found on the 'net


Dear Lord,

...I herewith make a blanket disavowal of all intrinsic worth. I am but an unprofitable servant. I gladly go to the foot of the class and own myself the least of your people. If
I err in my self-judgment and actually underestimate myself, I do not want to know it. I purpose to pray for others and to rejoice in their prosperity as if it were my own. And indeed it is my own if it is your own, for what is yours is mine, and while one plants and another waters, it is you alone who gives the increase.

A.W. Tozer (adapted)
Sent by Jim Martin

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