Jay Rosen: Politics: some / Politics: none. Two ways to excel in political journalism.
“Edward Snowden’s decision to leak to Greenwald, and Glenn’s domination of newsland for several days, tells us that politics: none is not the only way of excelling in journalism. It now has to share the stage with politics: some.”
I offer one observation about the story that has consumed the worlds of journalism and politics for the last eight days: leaks describing how vast is the United States government’s electronic monitoring of communications. Near the center of that story is Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian columnist who was one of three journalists that the leaker, Edward Snowden, chose to trust.
For five days, June 5 to June 9, Greenwald sat atop the journalism world as the revelations he brought forward jolted the rest of the press. As Jack Shafer of Reuters wrote on June 8: “This will now fuel new cycles of reporting, leaks and scoops — and another, and another — as new sources are cultivated and reportorial scraps gathering mold in journalists’ notebooks gain new relevance and help break stories. Greenwald’s storm will continue to rage…”
It will. Which brings me to my one observation. This should have been obvious from many prior events trending in the same direction, but as things stand today the proposition is clear to all but the most resistant minds in legacy media: The professional stance that proscribes all political commitments and discourages journalists from having a clear view or taking a firm position on matters in dispute (you can call it objectivity, if you like, or viewlessness, which I like better) is one way of doing good work. A very different professional stance, where the conclusions that you come to by staring at the facts and thinking through the issues serve to identify your journalism… this is another way of doing good work.
They are both valid. They are both standard. (And “traditional.”) They are both major league. Greenwald operates in the second fashion, but the language we have for this style — calling him a blogger or an advocate, hoping that these shorthands convey what’s different about him — is not very illuminating. “Blurring the line between opinion pieces and straight reporting…” is not very illuminating.