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.

Written by Andrew


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