The controversy over Washington Post blogger David Weigel's resignation, which came after a media blog posted too-hot-for-the-blogosphere emails that Weigel had sent to a private listserv, has raised a litany of tough questions about today's media. Are bloggers too open with their personal opinions? Is it possible to cover a complex ideological movement without forming strong feelings about it? Where does the objective journalist end and the subjective human being begin?
Democracy in America, The Economist's blog on all things U.S. politics, has some thoughts on this. Why not just have all publications follow the Economist model? The weekly news magazine publishes no bylines, which means that none of its articles have author names attached. The writers are anonymous, so the personalities and the publication remain distinct. The Economist's writers don't became famous, but they also don't become infamous. Here's the anonymous Democracy in America's take:
Reporters with bylines at non-ideological journalistic outfits, like the Post and other old-fashioned newspapers, will only be able to cover ideological politics if they can amputate their own political opinions. That's an oppressive thing to force upon someone, a form of political correctness all its own, and like all political correctness, it results in a smothered, distorted, false kind of speech. The only way I can think of to get around this problem, to allow journalists to report and analyse politics in an honest and intelligent fashion without worrying about accusations of bias based on the contents of private emails, would be to have a newspaper where the reporters don't have any bylines, where everything is written in a collective voice. But that's a crazy idea that would obviously never work.