Monday, March 14, 2016

Aitkin Age column: Keeping our independence

My latest column for the Aitkin Independent Age:

Do you know where the “Independent” in the name of this newspaper comes from? In the late 1800s, there were three newspapers in Aitkin: the Aitkin Age, the Aitkin Independent, and the Aitkin Republican. Eventually the Independent and the Age combined into the Independent Age. So the “Independent” was there originally to distinguish the paper’s political position from that of the Republican.

At that time, news media made no pretext of “journalistic objectivity,” but openly wrote their stories from a certain stated standpoint. Readers could thus compare different papers’ takes on events or stick with the one with which they agreed. Later, the concept of journalistic objectivity, reporting the facts without opinion, became standard practice, and that is what we try for now at the Independent Age. While we do print releases from political offices, the policy is not to include any editorializing outside direct quotations. For example, in an article announcing Stewart Mills’ second run for Congress, we changed the sentence, “[Mills] understands that Minnesota cannot continue with the current representation …” to “[Mills] believes that Minnesota cannot continue …” We may not always catch every instance of subjectivity but that is the goal.

The exception, of course, is opinion page columns like this one, where writers are speaking just for themselves, not the paper, allowing all kinds of ideas to be argued for. Opinionated discourse is a good thing, allowing debate to forge a path toward, hopefully, the truth; as long as it’s clear it’s coming from a certain viewpoint and there’s not one-sided censorship.
These two problems, however, are prevalent in much of public discourse.
 Read the rest here.

1 comment:

respicimar said...

As always, well-reasoned and well-written. You use a device which I feel is excellent for drawing a reader into your article in that you make a local reference to introduce a larger, more abstract concept. Anyway, it works for me!