The media’s ancien regime
The “blue” nature of the student body is further confirmed by my polling of the class I attended, done with the permission of Shapiro. Six of the 16 were English majors, two studied history, and the balance spread across the humanities. No one had a background in the physical sciences. No one owned a gun. All supported same-sex marriage. Three had been in a house of worship the previous week. Six read blogs. None of them recognized the phrase “Christmas Eve in Cambodia”–though Shapiro not only got the allusion but knew the date of the John Kerry Senate speech in which he made the false claim about his Vietnam war experience. Three quarters of them hope to make more than $100,000 as a journalist, 11 had voted for John Kerry, and one for George Bush (three are from abroad and not eligible, and one didn’t vote for either candidate). I concluded by asking them if they “think George Bush is something of a dolt.” There was unanimous agreement with this proposition, one of the widely shared views within elite media and elsewhere on the left. The president’s Harvard MBA and four consecutive victories over Democrats judged “smarter” than him haven’t made even a dent in that prejudice.
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These six want to pursue the idea of “objectivity,” and most had read Lemann’s profile of me, which included my very skeptical assessment of the objectivity of the mainstream media. Lunden is particularly animated. “You can’t draw conclusions that our opinions will influence our reporting,” she says, launching into a familiar defense of the ability of journalists to put aside their points of view. Shapiro stresses that all of her professors have been teaching “the value of objectivity,” but Nordenson isn’t buying it. “It is dangerous to think you are objective.” Plesea is cynical: “You don’t get truth in political reporting,” an opinion she didn’t confine to the countries of the former Soviet Union, with which she is familiar.
I am not here to debate the proposition, but find it interesting that the three-week wonders are already committed to the defense of their new profession’s reputation for objectivity. With a faculty that does not appear to count among its number even one prominent name from the center-right, but does include respected voices of the left such as Todd Gitlin and Victor Navasky, it is difficult to see where they will acquire any useful skepticism about their own craft’s motives and abilities.
It would have been interesting to hear Columbia Journalism Dean Nicholas Lemann’s take on Hewitt’s observations, considering that the article starts out with what promises to be some sort of interview, if not a confrontation, between the two. Hewitt’s article says that the Weekly Standard piece’s genesis was a planned New Yorker article by Lemann, on Hewitt. Perhaps any discussion will be reported there. Objectively, of course!
UPDATE: Dean Esmay picked up this article, too, and has a more substantive commentary about it.