Academia

Putting the "D" in J-School

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I suggest you expand your premise, mister!

At this late date in our Un-American Century, it should come as no presses-stopper that media and academia lean left, and that the deadly combination of the two–journalism school–makes the angle more acute. Yet this graduation-day Daily Caller complaint from Medill overspender Brian Schneider rises above most right-of-center whingeings by conducting at least a modest amount of reporting:

At Medill, professors hammer into our heads that there is no room for bias in our reporting. However, it seems to me that what is preached by Medill isn't followed by some of those very preachers. […]

About 15 percent of the full-time Medill journalism faculty has contributed to Democrats running for political office (including three of my professors), according to a database of campaign contributions dating to 1990 on OpenSecrets.org. Dean John Lavine has contributed about $13,000 to Democrats over those several election cycles, including $4,300 to President Barack Obama since 2004. (To be fair, he did donate $250 to a Virginia Republican). Only one full-time Medill professor contributed exclusively to Republican causes.

In an e-mail response, Lavine said, "When I covered campaigns, I never gave money to a candidate, and I don't believe reporters should…. (While) pure objectivity is unobtainable; rigorous reporting and full disclosure is obtainable."

Lavine also suggested I "expand my premise about journalistic objectivity" and gave a response worthy of any media ethics class. He said he and his wife did support Obama, but quickly pointed out they also once supported a Republican for governor.  However, "supported" only means so much.  There's an old saying that goes, "Put your money where your mouth is," and Lavine's money hasn't gone to a Republican in 14 years, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Lavine's email talks about transparency and journalistic integrity, yet he did not respond to my question on the hypocrisy of those Medill's professors donating money to a political cause.

Whole thing here, link via Romenesko.

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  1. What? Now the expectation is that reporters should be unbiased both in print and in private? Isn’t that bordering on absurd?

    Look, I get why the journolist thing pissed some people off, as there were indications that people were intentionally biasing their pieces in order to influence opinion. But giving money to a preferred candidate indicates absolutely nothing regarding journalistic bias.

    1. I don’t even accept the premise that giving equally to team red and team blue would be evidence of non-bias. Team red and blue are promoting many of the same things. Both are tools of “the man”, the oligarchy, the elite, the military/industrial/pharmceutical/bankster complex. Both are tools of the pro-war, pro-put-governments into debt so that the working people can be taxed to pay all the fucking interest for the rest of eternity.

      Both are pro torture,pro-drug war,pro-propaganda, pro-fuck you. Fuck the journ-o-lists and there obamatron campaign.

      Yes this was another “conspiracy theory” that proved to be true, it was obvious to anyone who can watch the talking points harmoniously repeated through every signal in the dummy box and the usual suspects in print media…along with the mockingbird affects that result. Thanks for confirming how these types of things take place for years on end without becoming public. Fuck off for implying the god damned republican puppets are any different or that we’d somehow be better off if we had a equal number of Team Red facist journ-o-lists as we already have of the Team Blue variety.

  2. Sorry. I don’t buy it. Everyone is biased. A good reporter strives to keep the bias out of his/her reporting. But making a campaign contribution simply makes public the personal biases of the giver, which I think is actually a good thing.
    It would probably be unwise for a political reporter to donate to a campaign, simply because it would make his/her job harder, but ethically? Meh.
    For the record, my rag has a policy that ‘strongly discourages’ reporters from supporting political causes. So my wife makes all the donations in our family.
    Of course, since I wrote a column for several years, every reader should already know where my biases lie, with or without a campaign finance report to prove it.

  3. I think Schneider is wrong-headed here. Just because a journo doesn’t contribute to a Democrat doesn’t mean his reporting isn’t slanted in that direction. At least with the donation(s) and the public revelation of same we can more properly discount the scribblings of said journos.

  4. And to continue…(sorry)…
    I think it’s probably better for a reporter to say up front — “Hey, you know what? When I go into the voting booth, I usually pull the lever for the Dems (or whatever). I admit that. But I also promise to do my best to try to keep my personal opinions out of my news reporting.”

  5. I think that the guys at Reason do some good reporting on all sorts of issues, and I’m also aware that they have a libertarian bias. I don’t think that makes them bad reporters.

  6. At this late date in our Un-American Century, it should come as no presses-stopper that media and academia lean left,

    I recall a few posters here who argue vigorously that the media does not lean left, because Fox News all by itself pulls the entire media complex right, or something. Plus, Limbaugh!

    1. Some here have argued, with a presumably straight face, that NPR has no political slant whatsoever.

      1. Worse than its political slant is its view that all things start and end with government.

        1. You’ve put your finger on it there, Pro L. Unfortunately, many reporters fail to see it, as a fish fails to see the water.

        2. Yes – the very idea that government should not be involved in any aspect of human activity (with the possible exception of abortion) is unfathomable to them.

          1. Of course they think government should be involved in abortion. Government agents should be stealing money from productive people to pay for the abortions of others.

            1. If you don’t support more tax dollars for more abortions for blacks then you are racists.

      2. Media bias has been out of the closet for at least a decade. Only the most dedicated liars at the tops of their profession (network news anchors, for instance) still attempt to deny their political predilections. But their words and their choice of stories and guest “strategists” betrays them.

    2. I don’t think ‘the media’ is particularly left or right, as much as I think they are pro-establishment.

      And I think that applies to everyone across the normal political spectrum from MSNBC to Fox News.

  7. Journalists should be free to contribute to any cause they feel just. Journalists should be free to then report on those causes. Consumers are free to distrust journalism as a whole as dishonest partisan hackery. Or not.

    1. That is crazy conspiracy talk, I suppose you think the CFR is in favor of world wide taxes and more power for central governments too?

  8. Newspapers have been endorsing candidates since the beginning of the Republic.

    1. Yes, but before the 20th century they were more or less open party organs. You rather expected the Socialist weekly to damn fat-cat business men and their running-dog Tamany Hall lackeys. It is the pretense of objectivity that angers people not the lack of objectivity.

      1. Yep.

        “Some thoughts on those angry voters. Ask parents of any two-year-old and they can tell you about those temper tantrums: the stomping feet, the rolling eyes, the screaming. It’s clear that the anger controls the child and not the other way around. It’s the job of the parent to teach the child to control the anger and channel it in a positive way. Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week….Parenting and governing don’t have to be dirty words: the nation can’t be run by an angry two-year-old.”
        -Peter Jennings, November 14, 1994

        1. I drank that little tirade up like those horror-flick monsters that feed on people’s terror. Seeing Jennings that exercised absolutely made my day.

        2. What a prick.

  9. It is the pretense of objectivity that angers people not the lack of objectivity.
    Spot on. I’m using that.

  10. But again, after 25 years in the biz, I’ve become convinced that the problem isn’t one of bad faith, but rather a complete lack of self-awareness by most journalists.
    I believe that most NPR reporters, for example, believe their reports are unbiased, which is a far more difficult nut to crack than simple bad faith.

    1. Today, I heard NPR reporting that the CBO determined that the stimulus saved millions of jobs.

    2. Well sure NPR is non-biased…they did support the Iraq war along with the republicans.

  11. Agreed that journalists, and professors in particular should be able to give.

    His other point about them mocking Fox News for the same shit they are doing though was better IMO.

  12. Journalists, and J-School profs, should be free to contribute to whomever they want.

    On the other hand, it would help the situation if newspapers would publish the political contributions of its staff, as well as any contributions of the owning company/corporation, on its web-site, and in its print version (as long as it continues to print).

    It couldn’t hurt for papers (the media in general) to also print bios of all of its staff, including the professional organizations, and political party affiliation, if only “just for the record”.

    Allowing people to comment on articles on web-sites allows people to offset the left-leaning bias of the “press” somewhat, but people who only read the print versions don’t get that opportunity.

    It’s time for the media to “do the right thing”, and become as transparent in its operations, as they want government and corporations to be.

  13. Since when did private campaign contributions and endorsements amount to professional bias?

    I’m sure all sorts of horrific unquestioned assumptions are exposed in an objective look at your typical J-School, but this seems pretty tenuous.

  14. Not only do I agree with the everyone else’s sentiments on this subject, but I have to wonder why 15% of the full-time professors is such the smoking gun Schneider feels it is.

    Less than a quarter of the professors sometimes donate almost exclusively to Democrats… what about the other 85%? Do they mix up their donations between Ds and Rs? Do they not donate at all? Do they all donate exclusively to Republicans?

    I didn’t RTFA, just the excerpt posted here, so maybe this is addressed there, but 15% of professors having an obvious personal bias doesn’t prove that journalism professors overwhelmingly have a journalistic bias in favor of the Dems.

  15. I think one of the problems is the celebrity factor — journalists themselves are making news and becoming the story.

    That — and the fact that they’re socializing with the people they are supposed to cover.

    1. And going to college with them. Journalism didn’t used to be a field so full of Ivy League twits. The journalistic instinct, IMHO, does not require academic training.

  16. After RTFA, I note that Schneider makes some good points against Medill — much more damning than the “15% contribute to Dems” revelation. He’d have been better off skipping the campaign finance stuff.

  17. Does anyone know when the “graduate degree” in journalism came into existence?

    I spent a year working as a reporter for a small-town daily in Fredericksburg, VA and I honestly can’t imagine what people need to learn about reporting in a four-year bachelor’s program, let alone shell out another $40,000 for an advanced degree.

    As the article writer states, it’s just “observe, question, report.”

    When did these people start to think they are doing something more complicated?

    1. A year for each W maybe?

    2. It takes awhile to be properly trained to know what “serious” thinkers believe. You can’t just convince someone that new taxes will give us better weather in a 2 year program.

  18. From the article:

    For Medill’s one-year grad program, it costs approximately $44,000 in tuition. Add living expenses and students are looking at about $60,000.

    Holy fuck! What a scam.

    1. One year?

      A one year graduate program?

      That’s not a degree, it’s a certificate.

  19. Lavine’s a schmendrick. Why would anybody give $4,300 to a presidential candidate/president over a six-year period? What possible benefit is that going to get you?

    I don’t know if I’ve ever made a political contribution, but the only type that makes sense to me is one that follows the (original) Powell Doctrine of Overwhelming Force. It needs to be big enough to put the politician in your debt. Which means it has to be either a lot of money or a small-time politician.

    Otherwise, what’s the point?

    1. I’ve donated money exactly once–to Ron Paul in 2008. Thought it was worth it to get some libertarian messaging into the primaries.

      1. Can’t have done.

        ‘Cause money isn’t speech.

      2. I’m too poor to matter, but I never donate to candidates. The few donations I’ve given are to issue-specific groups like LEAP.

      3. That was pretty dumb of you

    2. Non-voting anarchist here. I’ve given to friends who are running for office, both Red and Blue. Even helped edit their marketing pieces. I’m still not sure if that makes me some kind of hypocrite.

  20. What many see as active media bias I see more as gullibility and laziness. Anything an interviewee tells a reporter should be corroborated and double-checked, even if what the interviewee says confirms the reporter’s own biases.

    There are always at least two sides to every story and two opinions on every subject. The reporter’s job is to present them all, not to decide which one is correct and report only that one.

  21. There’s also a segment of reporting who actively strive for objectivity. Let’s ignore for a minute that this unattainable. The result is lazy, “he said, she said” reporting. People who give the 30 second updates between radio shows and commercials are the worst: “Today the House is considering X Bill. Republicans say the bill will hurt small business and destroy jobs. Democrats say it will create jobs and get the economy back on track.” At no point is the bill itself or its likely effects discussed. That’s what perceived objectivity gets you.

  22. 2nded to everything everybody said, particularly OP, but I can’t verify anything about this Medill place, and really only use the “Missouri Method”… “kid majoring in speech” and so forth. Also the 5 W’s: hoW; Waftage; W. Bush; Waldgrave (as in Follow-The); and Wmosque

  23. I don’t think I would higher a J-school grad to do anything other than clean a toilet.

  24. “Supported” = “Did not actively attempt to destroy”

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  26. Some here have argued, with a presumably straight face, that NPR has no political slant whatsoever.
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  27. The very idea that government should not be involved in any aspect of human activity (with the possible exception of abortion) is unfathomable to them.
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  28. Anyway, when you get through that, read how the Lebanese have chosen to determine their own destiny

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