The 'Ostensibly Objective Reporters and Editors' of the LAT

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Mar 23, 2007 9:11 AM
Well, we've known about the problem for years, thanks in large part to Patterico and Hugh.

Now, a editor calls the paper out for it in his blogged resignation.

Among the biggest possible conflicts of interest a newspaper can enter into is to have the same people involved in news coverage running opinion pages. I am proud of the fact that Jeff Johnson, Dean Baquet and I fully separated the opinion pages from the newsroom at the Times.  I accept my share of the responsibility for placing the Times in this predicament, but I will not be lectured on ethics by some ostensibly objective news reporters and editors who lobby for editorials to be written on certain subjects, or who have suggested that our editorial page coordinate more closely with the newsroom's agenda, and I strongly urge the present and future leadership of the paper to resist the cries to revisit the separation between news and opinion that we have achieved.
He's resigning over a scandal in which he gave a guest-editor spot to a client of one of his friends' P.R. firms. I'm with Patterico in thinking that that kind of impropriety is the least of the Times' worries.

Rather than wringing his hands over a nonstory like that, publisher Hiller ought to address his attention to appearances of impropriety that really matter. For example:

It creates an appearance of impropriety when one of the fired U.S. Attorneys directly contradicts the major premise of an L.A. Times article published about him — and five days later, there is still no correction.

It creates an appearance of impropriety when the paper splashes on the front page the fact that rationales for firing the U.S. Attorneys were “detailed after the fact” — and saves for the 27th paragraph the fact that they were detailed before the fact as well.

There are many more at the link.

But it's always been my experience that, when professional journalists study ethics, they always study the wrong things. In j-school and professional seminars (after graduation), we had interminable and inumerable discussions about how graphic a front-page picture could be or the relative importance of the race of a perp. Should you show a dead body? Should you describe a suspect as "black?" Oh, the things we discussed.

We very, very, very rarely discussed how not to get sucked into the lefty vortex that is a modern-day newsroom and let it shape your story choices, picture choices, and objectvity.

For that reason, most students' objectivity had not much hope of being anything but ostensible.