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Stanford Journalism Chief: Reporters Should Be “Advocates for Social Justice”

In an interview with The Stanford Daily this week, the man who has done more than perhaps anyone else to shape the university’s journalism program explicitly rejected the idea that reporters should bring “objectivity” to their work. Communications Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser told the student newspaper that journalists should actually peel away their objectivity if they want to do the job correctly.

“Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity,” he said.

The university watchdogs over at Campus Reform reached out to Glasser, who served for 14 years as the director of Stanford’s journalism graduate program. They asked him if he was serious about journalists leaving their objectivity at the door.

“My understanding of journalism, like my understanding of history, rests on the premise that there is no finally correct description of anything — only interpretations,” Glasser said. “I’m not a big fan of the term ‘objectivity’ or ‘objective truth’ because it gets us talking about all the wrong things. I like to view journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”

Well, since there’s no such thing as “truth,” we assume that Glasser would be equally find with journalists whose idea of “morality” and “social justice” are miles away from his own. In other words, a conservative journalist pushing free market capitalism in all of his work would meet with Glasser’s unrestrained approval, right? A law-and-order minded journalist who constantly referred to “mostly peaceful protests” as the actual riots that they are? He should be thrilled with that, right?

Why do we get the feeling that’s not the case?

By the way, the end of this Campus Reform story contains some pretty hilarious unintentional comedy:

“I welcome the opportunity to respond to your inquiry but first we need to be sure we’re on the same page,” Glasser said when asked to comment. “I reject your claim that ‘journalism is a distinct field that is supposed to be based in objective truth.’ Indeed, I have no idea what you mean by ‘objective truth.’ Can you point to it?”

After Campus Reform defined the term as requested, Glasser said he was “surprised” by the response.

“No offense, but who cares what you think about what I said?” He later apologized, after being reminded of his request.

You’ll notice that whenever someone finds themselves in way over their head, buried under a sea of contradictions and obvious falsehoods, they tend to get hot under the collar really quickly. We imagine this guy is on a hair trigger at all times.

What do you think?

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Written by Andrew

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  1. Well there you have it. Reporters/journalists are extinct. When you turn on the news do not expect to become informed, expect to be indoctrinated by the “reporter” and receive his/her point of view. Any reasonably astute person viewing the MSM already knows this is the case and as such the “fourth estate” has relinquished any claim to any special privilege it ever had. Orwell had it right. The ministry of truth is nothing but lies.

  2. Really? Then why does the SPJ Code of Ethics lay out the following guidelines for journalists?
    • Verify information before releasing it, using original sources whenever possible.
    • Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
    • Gather, update, and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
    • Clearly identify sources so that the public can judge for itself the reliability and motivations of these.
    • Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution, or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere, and explain why this was granted.
    • Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
    • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
    • Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
    • Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government.
    • Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
    • Avoid stereotyping.
    • Label advocacy and commentary.
    • Never deliberately distort facts or context.
    • Never plagiarize, and always attribute.

    Sounds to me like this is specifically instructing journalists NOT to serve as partisan “advocates.” In other words, “Just the facts, ma’am!”

    For more on this subject, see https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp.

  3. Someone tell this child there is social justice. Act like an adult and get treated like one. Act like a punk and get treated the same.

  4. No, they should be factual reporters of real news. Andrew is a poster child of why we should require occupational licensing to practice journalism. All the media is now, is lying fake news propagandists. And yes, there is a 1st amendment right to free speech, but NOWHERE in the bill of rights is there a constitutional right to be a journalist.

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