Friday, January 8, 2010

Recommended Reading

I'm generally not a fan of Slate's Jack Shafer, but credit where it's due, his piece today on a great big blind spot in the New York Times' "ethics guidelines" is a keeper. A sample:

Every news organization clings to a consensus view about the world, whether that organization considers itself liberal, conservative, centrist, objective, or impartial. Although editors and reporters are usually encouraged to nibble on the skin of the consensus—mostly to appear fair and balanced—it's the rare news organization that allows journalists to sink their fangs into what their colleagues consider a settled issue. Which institutions and which sources to treat as credible, what constitutes a story, and how hard to pursue that story are all governed by a news outlet's consensus thinking. (Most of the hostility directed at the Fox News Channel isn't about content but the network's vehement rejection of the conventional wisdom.)

Journalists generally rise within the profession by doing good work. But flattering the wisdom of the boss, dressing like him, laughing at his jokes, aping his views, and imitating his manners and news judgment will always accelerate the process. Building out from that affinity relationship to embrace the boss's most loyal underlings will probably advance a journalist's career. Those who rumble against the consensus sometimes prevail, but it's not a reliable career strategy. Show me an ambitious, successful person in journalism who doesn't go with the executive flow, and I'll show you an outlier.

Read the whole thing. It's good.

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