AGAINST OBJECTIVITY. I...

AGAINST OBJECTIVITY. I guess I appreciate what the Supreme Leader is getting at in his column when he says that "any civil society needs institutions in every realm of life -- in business, the law, the arts, what have you -- that take as their presumptive raison d�etre not ideology but its opposite, impartiality." On the other hand, does it really follow from that that we need The New York Times? After all, England, France, and -- as far as I know -- pretty much all European countries seem to get on just fine without a broadsheet that aspires to American-style neutrality. Obviously, if the Times were to just vanish tomorrow, that would be bad, but if it were to transform itself into a feisty Guardian-style paper and prompt the creation of a counterpart rightwing national broadsheet, I think that would be good. After all, ideology need not be the enemy of quality. No liberal is going to approve of The Economist's politics, but it's still a way better magazine than Time or Newseek.

Be that as it may, I also think it's useful to distinguish between two ideas Mike sort of runs together -- non-partisan and non-ideological. Partisan journalism as practiced by, say, Fred Barnes or (frequently) Fox News is pretty deplorable. Ideological journalism, on the other hand, tends to be interesting and informative even when you disagree with it. Oftentimes, ideology and partisanship overlap, but not always. Reason is rigidly ideological but not at all partisan since it espouses an ideology no political party that ever hopes to win elections would touch with a ten-foot pole.

On a loosely related note, Mike observes that sometimes he laughs when he hears "that so-and-so reporter is a tool of the Bush administration when I know that so-and-so�s personal views aren�t that far away from mine. But such criticism means, from so-and-so�s perspective, that he or she is doing his or her job." That strikes me as an oft-crippling problem for neutral reporters who tend to respond to complaints about their work with the observation that since conservatives don't like them and liberals don't like them, they must be awesome truth-tellers. Well, maybe. Alternatively, maybe they're doing lots of bad work and pissing everyone off. Or maybe they're rigidly adhering to an elite consensus that is no less ideological than what the left or right are pushing. Or maybe they get complaints from both sides but one side is right and the other is wrong.

--Matthew Yglesias

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