August 08, 2004

Discussing Diss-Unity

Jay Rosen makes some strong arguments against the criticism leved at those Unity conventioneers who gave John Kerry a partisan, cheering welcome.

He points out, correctly, that a version of "groupthink" jerked the knees of all involved (myself included, I presume) -- among traditional journalists, ethicists, conservatives, minority journalists, editors and J-school educators.

Here's is my response to Jay:

Jay ...

I self-thought my way into Steele's groupthink by agreeing with him that the standing O for Kerry was inappropriate. Transparency of bias is one thing -- and it is granting a lot to the conventioneers, I believe, to attribute their applause to a desire to display to the public readers their political prejudices -- but overt cheerleading is another.

I am a fan of Unity (I said so here.) because I believe the more diversity, racial and otherwise, in our newsrooms, the better the journalism (based on the principle that good ideas improve in an environment where they can be challenged.) That said, Unity, coalition and the convention, is not known for challenging the issue of diversity and the ready and ongoing acceptance of diversity racially defined (gays and lesbian organizations are not part of the Unity coalition).

Similarly, the convention accepted Kerry as its candidate and rejected Bush as not one of them with equal lack of challenge to the idea. That's what bothers me -- not that they cheered Kerry but that they didn't challenge him journalistically, which, of course, is their job.

I asked, somewhat rhetorically, on First Draft: What is the obsession journalists have with inviting politicians to speak to their conventions? ASNE, for example, regularly extends invitations, as it did this year, to the sitting president or Cabinet members. Given all the challenges facing journalism today, including the very definition of the profession, why invite politicians who had nothing to the conversation and typically stray beyond their stump speeches or talking points.

One reader left this answer in my comments:

"Because it's wise for the politician to accept the invite(fear);

"Because the journalists will enjoy being addressed directly by the powerful (validation);

"Because those organizing the convention chose to ask - either because this choice is, well, conventional, or because they believe that politicians-as-speakers will boost attendance (commercial success) - in which case they presumably believe that the journalists would rather (or more easily?) be validated than informed."

I'll add this: Because it's easier for the convention to be conventional than take a risk. And that's what the Kerry thing was: conventional.



Posted by Tim Porter at August 8, 2004 03:43 PM