All journalism is advocacy journalism. No matter how it’s presented, every report by every reporter advances someone’s point of view. The advocacy can be hidden, as it is in the monotone narration of a news anchor for a big network like CBS or NBC (where the biases of advertisers and corporate backers like GE are disguised in a thousand subtle ways), or it can be out in the open, as it proudly is with Greenwald, or graspingly with Sorkin, or institutionally with a company like Fox.
But to pretend there’s such a thing as journalism without advocacy is just silly; nobody in this business really takes that concept seriously. “Objectivity” is a fairy tale invented purely for the consumption of the credulous public, sort of like the Santa Claus myth. Obviously, journalists can strive to be balanced and objective, but that’s all it is, striving.
Ad Age: Will there be a Rolling Stone edition for the iPad?
Mr. Wenner: You can get it through Zinio or through our website and our archives are available on the website. At some point I’m sure it will be on the iPad but I’m not in any rush to break what I consider fundamental principles of what the magazine industry has to have and make a deal with Apple that will mortgage me into the future on the basis of getting 2,000 copies sold a month.
Far from being an outlier, Roger Ailes fits snugly in an American tradition of partisan and skeezy journalism. As the owner and captain of his own media empire, William Randolph Hearst bent the news to suit his political ambitions for five decades. His vilification of President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes Fox News’ harassment of President Obama look like patty-cake. Robert R. McCormick, owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, ran headlines like “Moscow Orders Reds in U.S. to Back Roosevelt.”
The tradition of an American media owner or boss pushing a candidate or a cause is so firmly ensconced in journalistic history that the true outlier is the mogul who plays it completely straight. Walter Annenberg used his Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News to smear opponents and reward his political friends, facts be damned. The Manchester Union Leader’s William Loeb (subscription required) hammered liberal Democrats as “left-wing kooks” and called President John Kennedy “the No. 1 liar in the United States.” Nelson Rockefeller, in Loeb’s eyes, was a “wife-swapper,” and President Dwight Eisenhower was a “stinking hypocrite.”
The Rolling Stone article is a long read (about 10,000 words).
The New York magazine one is less long (about 6,400 words).
Both are interesting explorations of Ailes and the Fox News operation. File under: Weekend Reading. And if you only have time for one, head Schafer’s advice, “If you enjoy a scary nighttime story, read Dickinson’s [Rolling Stone] piece. But if your tastes run toward political comedy, click on Sherman’s.”