Journalism and Politics

An interesting discussion came up in class, on Monday, one that I hadn’t really considered in the past.  I did not realize that many news agencies have policies in place, prohibiting or discouraging their journalists participation in political petitions.

I understand the basics of why a news org. would not want their journalists to sign something such as a recall petition.  News orgs. need to maintain their credibility of unbiased reporting.  But, I have a fundamental issue with the concept.  Personally, I have an opinion on politics.  I would safely say that almost every journalist does.  When you see something taking place, politically, that could have a strong adverse affect on your professional and personal life, you want to take action.  Being told that you can’t take action because it may question your credibility is an incredibly hard pill to swallow.

Do you act on something that you can have  say in?  Or do you sit and silently hope that enough people will fill in the gap you leave behind?

This morning I ran across an editorial from the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal giving his reasoning as to why he prohibits journalists from signing petitions and his justification for calling out six journalists who did sign it.  I only partially agree.

Smalley loses me when he okays posting political bias on a page and labeling it “Opinion.”  The image that immediately entered my head was of myself, signing a petition with a t-shirt with “opinion” in big black letters across my chest.  It’s okay to publicly post your political views in a news paper or web page as long as it is labeled opinion and still be held objective in other political stories.  But it is not okay to express your rights as a citizen and sign a petition on something that could directly affect the well-being of yourself and your family.

Or, I’m possibly just overly sensitive and simplifying the whole issue.  Like I said, I understand the policy, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.


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