MICHAEL KINSLEY: This notion that journalists ought to be sort of political, ideological eunuchs who don’t have any political views is just hopeless.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Michael Kinsley is a longtime editor and columnist, now for Politico.
MICHAEL KINSLEY: The question isn’t whether they hold opinions but whether they suppress those opinions to the extent they can when they do their work.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: When Kinsley was the editor of Slate, he disclosed who he was voting for and invited his reporters and editors to do the same. Mostly, they did. He admits it was less risky for Slate than for other news outlets because Slate is a journal of commentary and analysis. But –
MICHAEL KINSLEY: I think newspapers ought to do it precisely because it’s a fiction to suppose that reporters don’t have political views, and it would be healthier and more honest if they simply said what they were.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Len Downie, who was then editor of The Washington Post, now retired, is the poster child for the opposing view, the one that says reporters should keep mum. But he takes it even further. When executive editor Ben Bradley handed him the reins more than two decades ago, he stopped voting.
LEN DOWNIE: Unlike the rest of our staff, I had the last word as to whether or not the paper was being fair in its reporting on these issues, and I didn’t want to take a position even in my own mind on them. I wanted to maintain a completely open mind.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And so, despite all the information that flows through your desk and all you know about the political environment of Washington, DC, you are able to not make up your mind?
LEN DOWNIE: Yes, actually it comes fairly easily to me. I guess it’s the nature of my personality to see all sides of most issues. In fact, I’m rather surprised at people that are so definite about things.
MICHAEL KINSLEY: Does he say he can bend forks with his mind? You know, some people can do remarkable things.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Michael Kinsley.
MICHAEL KINSLEY: I mean Len Downie, I admire. But I’m not sure that I would admire him as much if I thought that he was really able to go blank in his mind as easily as he claims to.