Lou Dobbs' abrupt departure from CNN seems to be the product of ongoing wrangling between the anchor and network executives, who gave him the choice of either making his show more "objective" or resigning. CNN had been under increasing pressure from immigrants' rights groups to fire the news anchor: His histrionics in the last few years have included blaming immigrants for 7,000 cases of leprosy in 2007 and joining certifiable crazy Orly Taitz in demanding Obama turn over his real birth certificate even as CNN repeatedly debunked the birther myth.
CNN's demand that Dobbs tone it down seems to be part of an effort to hold firm against the editorialization of the news that happens at networks like Fox and MSNBC. But I'm not sure that purging the loudest scaremongers will necessarily guarantee CNN objective coverage -- this might be a futile endeavor on their part. Sure, a story can strike a tone that isn't alarmist, but any journalist can tell you that the types of stories an outlet covers -- and doesn't cover -- are themselves an indication of politically informed priorities.
The bias question isn't just a matter of whether or not the title of Dobbs' news series had been "Broken Borders." Simply reporting on the immigration "problem" -- as opposed to our failure to plan for the regular influx of new citizens -- is a political decision. As James Poniewozik writes in Time, all it means for a news outlet to be "moderate" or neutral is that it reflects the values and prejudices that are the status quo. Still, it's nice not to watch the nightly news and be told that Armageddon is around the corner. CNN is better off without Dobbs' senile, paranoid invective.
Setting aside the issue of whether one can be an "objective" journalist, the more important question is what it means to be a good journalist. It means not being a prisoner to ideology and instead pointing the skeptical, journalistic lens on yourself as well as on the government officials and organizations you cover. Dobbs is a font of certainty, and now, the subject of reports rather than the reporter. He belongs there.
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