Leonard Pitts’ journalistic dog whistle

Appearing in today’s Greensboro News & Record, syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts says when the history of this (the Trump) era is written, the “non Fox News media” will be blamed for “surrendering to a boneless “both-sideism” that simulates professional impartiality at the cost of clarity and fact.” In other words, for being impartial, for presenting both sides of the story–what journalists are supposed to do.

Never mind that neither fairness nor balance require us to report discredited and disreputable information. Never mind, either, that winning the debate is not the point for climate change deniers anyway. No, they win simply by being included, thus wringing from us an implicit concession that they represent a point of view worth hearing. Even when they do not.

As deniers of tragedies from the Holocaust to the Civil War to the Parkland shooting prove, both-sideism isn’t just a journalistic problem. But it is in journalism that it is arguably most consequential. One recalls with a grimace how reporters treated Hillary Clinton’s sloppy handling of emails as an object of concern equivalent to the racism, misogyny, mendacity, ineptitude, ignorance and corruption that trail Trump like an odor. Indeed, a survey by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center found that over the course of the full campaign, Clinton actually received more negative media coverage than he did.

Two years later, most of us would likely agree there was no comparison between the two. Too bad more of us did not come to that obvious conclusion back when it mattered.

Yes, reporters should strive for impartiality. They should strive to be open-minded. But they should also strive to cover the world as fully and factually as they can.

First of all I would not agree there is no comparison between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There’s been an odor trailing Hillary since she first came on the scene in 1992 which is exactly why—earth to Leonard Pitts—Trump was elected. And I don’t now abut you, but I’ve never read or seen a story in mainstream media outlet (and that would include Fox News) about the Holocaust or the Civil War where the “other side of the story” is someone who denied either ever happened. And for that matter, I rarely –if ever —read a story about climate change that includes any sort of opposing viewpoint. They’re out there, and–earth to Leonard Pitts—they’re not the whack jobs the mainstream media believes them to be.

What I believe Pitts is cleverly saying here is it’s ok for journalists to abandon all pretense of objectivity in the effort to take down our president. Anyone paying attention knows that’s already the case, but once Leonard Pitts endorses it, then it’s really game on.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...