A libertarian guide for young reporters tells us how media, ideological or otherwise, should work in the digital age
With the rise of ideological journalism over the past decade, a period when opinionated bloggers, Web journalists, and muckraking activists have changed the face of the profession, there's been cause for celebration: The ideological gatekeepers that once narrowed our public discourse no longer hold sway. Every bias is challenged. New perspectives abound. The right and left each have their success stories. But an avowedly ideological press has its pathologies, just like the avowedly objective press it's in the process of replacing.
For a decade, I've followed the right's journalistic efforts and accompanying pathologies particularly closely.
And I see new reason for optimism.
Unlike left-of-center journalism, where ideological outlets like Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and The American Prospect mostly accept the norms and ethical conventions that reign at older guard outlets like the New York Times, many (though not all) right-leaning outlets have gone their own way. Bloggers like Glenn Reynolds started off critiquing the approach of the mainstream media. National Review publishes some folks who think of themselves as reporters or journalists first -- and others who thought of themselves as ideological warriors first, an approach that often diminishes editorial standards, especially at institutions less careful than NR, where no one in charge demands sound reasoning and accuracy. Activists like James O'Keefe have gone a step farther, behaving as if the end of ideologically useful scoops justifies means of reportage that are illegal, immoral, or both. And Fox News is among the outlets that has used the excuse of commentary as license to broadcast the most outlandish, inaccurate nonsense, as evidenced by any number of Glenn Beck conspiracy theories.