definitely “politically correct” (a third take on journalism taking on authority)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

TO TELL THE TRUTH in the face of lies is the job of all jour­nal­ists, with lies being, you know, those al­ter­na­tive fact thin­gies that are all the rage these days. Or at least that’s what Lewis Wal­lace states in an ed­i­to­rial call-to-arms that he had posted on his per­sonal blog. There he ad­dressed ob­jec­tivity, calling a lie a lie in­stead of an al­ter­na­tive fact, and em­bracing the ac­cu­sa­tion of being po­lit­i­cally cor­rect lib­eral leftist!

I am not a jour­nalist. Aside from some col­lege courses in basic jour­nalism in 1969-1971, I have no ex­pe­ri­ence in the field. Of course, we could argue that most con­tem­po­rary “jour­nal­ists” aren’t jour­nal­ists ei­ther, but glo­ri­fied stenographers. 

This is es­pe­cially those that make the rounds of var­ious press con­fer­ences and lunches in DC. But that’s an­other story! 

I do think that anyone prac­ticing any­thing re­sem­bling journalism—even in­cluding editorializing—can look to “ob­jec­tivity” for pointers, if not guid­ance. And I prefer Sen­ator Moyni­han’s dic­tate (“You are en­ti­tled to your opinion. But you are not en­ti­tled to your own facts.”) to Coun­selor Con­way’s “al­ter­na­tive facts.” 1


GoldenBook AltFacts

While I re­member lots of Little Golden Book titles—the one on di­nosaurs was my fave!—I don’t re­call ever seeing this as a child. Ac­cording to DC scut­tle­butt, this was the Pres­i­dent’s bed­side reader for years!

Objectivity is dead!

Lewis Wal­lace writes for Mar­ket­place, a public radio forum pro­duced and dis­trib­uted by Amer­ican Public Media, in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Uni­ver­sity of Southern Cal­i­fornia. The piece he wrote on his per­sonal blog—not on an APM site–is ti­tled “Ob­jec­tivity is dead, and I’m okay with it.

His sense of the “death” of ob­jec­tivity and his ideas for dealing with it in the new Trump Era seemed rather sane, and so here I am sharing some of them on my per­sonal blog.

Below please find ex­cerpts from his piece, edited by me for brevity and styl­istic con­sis­tency with my site. I have set his words in san serif type­face (Arial) to make it easy to sep­a­rate it from my words. Words in brackets were added by me to make Wal­lace’s ideas more understandable—especially given what I cut out from his words.


Definitely Politically Correct: cartoon by Nate Beeler about alternative facts.

Car­toon by Nate Beeler for The Columbus Dispatch.

Journalists should fight back

As a working jour­nalist, I’ve been deeply ques­tioning how we [jour­nal­ists] must change what we are doing to adapt to a gov­ern­ment that be­lieves in “al­ter­na­tive facts” and thrives on lies, in­cluding the lie of white racial superiority.

One of the di­ciest is­sues is that of “ob­jec­tivity.” Some argue that if we abandon our stance of jour­nal­istic neu­trality, we let the “post-fact” camp win. A few thoughts on ob­jec­tivity in this po­lit­ical moment:

•  Neu­trality isn’t real. Can people of color be ex­pected to give cre­dence to “both sides” of a dis­pute with a white supremacist—a person who holds un­sci­en­tific and morally rep­re­hen­sible views on the very na­ture of being human?

•  We can (and should) still tell the truth and check our facts. I think we are past the point where [our au­di­ences] ex­pect us to speak to a fic­ti­tious and ever-shifting center in order to ap­pear “neu­tral.”

We can check our facts, tell the truth, and hold the line without pre­tending that there is no eth­ical basis to the work that we do.

•  Jour­nal­ists should fight back! As the status quo in this country shifts, we must de­cide whether we are going to shift with it. It seems clear that these shifts will not ben­efit those of us in the in­dustry who care about truth-telling and about holding power accountable. 

In­stead of waiting and seeing [and] re­acting as jour­nal­ists are ar­rested, [as] free­doms of speech cur­tailed, [and as] gov­ern­ment num­bers lied about, I pro­pose that we need to be­come more shame­less, more raw, [and] more honest with our­selves and our au­di­ences about who we are, and what we are in this for.

To call a politi­cian on a lie is our job, to rep­re­sent a cross-section of our com­mu­ni­ties is our job, [and] to tell the truth in the face of “al­ter­na­tive facts” is our job.

•  Get our sense of pur­pose, for real: We need to know why we tell these sto­ries in order to con­tinue to tell them well. We will be called “po­lit­i­cally cor­rect,” “lib­eral,” and “leftist.” We should own the fact that to tell the sto­ries and pro­mote the voices of mar­gin­al­ized and tar­geted people is not a neu­tral stance from the side­lines, but an im­por­tant front in a lively battle against the narrow-mindedness, tyranny, and in­sti­tu­tional op­pres­sion that puts all of our free­doms at risk.


Definitely Politically Correct: cartoon by Kevin Necessary about alternative facts.

Car­toon by Kevin Nec­es­sary for WCPO of Cincinnati.

Journalists can be politically correct!

Now for the title of the first ar­ticle by Wal­lace that I found that led me to his blog piece: “I was fired from my jour­nalism job ten days into Trump.” Yep, Mr Wal­lace was fired from Mar­ket­place for writing his opinion on his per­sonal blog. Here is part of his ex­pla­na­tion of what occurred:

Mar­ket­place be­lieves in ob­jec­tivity and neu­trality. And they were con­cerned about the sec­tion of my piece that as­serted that we shouldn’t care, as jour­nal­ists, if we are la­beled “po­lit­i­cally cor­rect” or even “lib­eral” for re­porting the facts.

After sus­pending me, they told me to take the post down, and asked me not to speak to my col­leagues about it. They said it was about the policy, not any par­tic­ular feed­back they’d gotten. I had no idea that a per­sonal post raising ques­tions about the role of jour­nal­ists today would be so con­tro­ver­sial. And I’d specif­i­cally been asked by Mar­ket­place to main­tain a per­sonal blog as part of building my “per­sonal brand.”

The next morning, I took the post down. I was not re­in­stated. I wasn’t given a chance to de­bate the is­sues I raised, to hear ex­actly what they might change about the post, or to dis­cuss why I didn’t think I should be punished.


Definitely Politically Correct: cartoon by Joe Heller about alternative facts.

Car­toon by Joe Heller for The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Will we give voice to alternative facts?

Please reread Wal­lace’s words: while he is trum­peting an al­ter­na­tive “lib­eral” jour­nalism to counter the “al­ter­na­tive facts”-based White House, his call-to-arms is, in fact, po­lit­i­cally neu­tral. Any righty can heed this ad­vice as well as any lefty. 2

There are more than 1,100 words in the orig­inal “Ob­jec­tivity is dead” ar­ticle, and my adap­ta­tion above keeps only 400 of them. There are more than 2,300 words in the orig­inal “I was fired from my jour­nalism job” ar­ticle, of which I kept a mere 200. That it, there is lots more to read in each piece and I sug­gest in­ter­ested readers click on over and do just that!

To tell the truth in the face of “al­ter­na­tive facts” is our job as jour­nal­ists. Click To Tweet

Definitely Politically Correct: photo of Hugh laurie as Dr Gregory House, MD.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is a pub­licity shot of Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gre­gory House, tele­vi­sion’s most lov­able mis­an­thrope. In one episode, House re­sponds to Dr. Chase’s state­ment, “If I can’t trust you, I can’t trust your state­ment that I can trust you. But thanks anyway, you’ve been a big help.”



1   Ac­tu­ally, I think that everyone who has the facts on their side of an ar­gu­ment prefers Mr. Moyni­han’s take on things over Ms. Con­way’s, re­gard­less of their po­lit­ical leanings.

2   They can, but they won’t.


orni LittleGoldenBook

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s are fa­miliar with the Little Golden Book se­ries for chil­dren. Un­like many modern books, they did not talk down to their readers, and often used in­cred­ibly tal­ented il­lus­tra­tors to boot. Their 1959 book on di­nosaurs was written by Jane Werner with fan­tastic art by William de J. Rutherfoord—all for 29¢.

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