The pros and cons of having an opinion as a journalist

Politics: some / Politics: none. Two ways to excel in political journalism. Neither dominates.:

“None” journalists have certain advantages over their “some” colleagues, but the reverse is also true. If you want to appear equally sympathetic to all potential sources, politics: none is the way to go. If you want to avoid pissing off the maximum number of users, politics: none gets it done. (This has commercial implications. They are obvious.) But: if you’re persuaded that transparency is the better route to trust, politics: some is the better choice. And if you want to attract sources who themselves have a political commitment or have come to a conclusion about matters contested within the political community, being open about your politics can be an advantage. That is the lesson that Glenn Greenwald has been teaching the profession of journalism for the last week. Edward Snowden went to him because of his commitments. This has implications for reporters committed to the “no commitments” style.

The key is to not go too far in either direction.

Being detached and objective is fine, but you don’t want to be so removed from the reality of what you’re reporting on that you go into what Paul Krugman calls “shape of planet blogging” – being so committed to reporting both sides of a story that you’re willing to spread points of view that are wrong or outright lies.

On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be Fox News or MSNBC.

Abraham Lincoln on the Iraq, err, Mexican-American War

More great anecdotes from Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln:

The following week, on January 12, 1848, Lincoln defended his spot resolutions and his vote on the Ashmun resolution in a major speech. He claimed that he would happily reverse his vote if the president could prove that first blood was shed on American soil; but since he “can not, or will not do this,” he suspected that the entire matter was, “from beginning to end, the sheerest deception.” Having provoked both countries into war, Lincoln charged, the president had hoped “to escape scrutiny, by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory … that serpent’s eye, that charms to destroy.”

[…]

The Democratic Illinois State Register charged that Lincoln had disgraced his district with his “treasonable assault upon President Polk,” claimed that “henceforth” he would be known as “Benedict Arnold,” and predicted that he would enjoy only a single term. Lincoln sought to clarify his position, arguing that although he had challenged the instigation of the war, he had never voted against supplies for the soldiers. To accept Polk’s position without question, he claimed, was to “allow the President to invade a neighboring nation … whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary.”

Sounds an awful lot like Paul Krugman and others who spoke out against President Bush during the first few year of the Iraq War. History really does repeat itself.