The Memoirs of a Reporter
Evan Maxwell (JD Watson thanks!) at Patterico's Pontifications hearkens back to the innocent days when he thought being a journalist meant not taking sides. He describes his introduction to the world as it is.
I knew nothing of the conflict between the labor writer, Bernstein, and the young Latino, Del Olmo, but apparently it was common knowledge in the Los Angeles newsroom. The grounds for disagreement were manifold: the United Farm Workers organizing campaigns; border enforcement and human smuggling; labor costs and social welfare benefits. Harry thought like a traditional unionist and Frank was always eager to impart a Latino spin to Times coverage. That was, after all, his job, whether anybody publicly acknowledged it. The friction became open and acrimonious. Something had to be done.
Enter the naif, me.
The first I heard about the dispute was when my supervisor in Orange County came to me one Friday and said, “The boss is going to call you to offer you a job downtown, and I think you ought to know that you don’t really have a choice but to take it.” ...
In retrospect, I can now see that I was being placed between a couple of guys who were much more sophisticated political infighters than I ever hoped to be. In truth, I was not even really aware that there were political games to be played in newsrooms. ...
Like a good soldier, I took the job and spent much of the next three or four years catching flak from both sides and never really managing to stop the civil war. I was always more of a punching bag than I was a buffer, which is probably a sign of the depth of passions in the newsroom and in society. It wasn’t much fun because it was, from the get-go, a doomed experiment. The dispute in the 1970s was like it is today. It was political and there seemed to be but two sides. I was neither side. It wasn’t the journalist’s job to take sides, so far as I was concerned. I was hopelessly naive.
I'd guess Patterico's observation is true of a lot more places than newsrooms. And maybe it's OK in journalism, as long as the politics is all up front. Then the reader can discount or modify the "facts" he finds in the headlines, though you can forgive the average Joe for thinking that it's a helluva way to run a railroad.