Journalism and its Discontents
On October 28, Gawker angered many by publishing a first-hand account of a man’s one-night stand with then-Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell. In their follow-up post, “Why We Published the Christine O’Donnell Story,” the staff of Gawker defended their article. They explained that they didn’t publish the self-proclaimed “revirginated” GOP candidate’s scandalous exploits because they were trying to run a smear campaign against her, but because it was their ob ligation to point out the contradictions between her pro-chastity platform and her behavior. The image of the slimy, back-stabbing journalist who will do anything for a story pervades public opinion. People are often afraid that some evil conglomerate — “The Media”— will twist their words to its will, either on the large scale as part of some mega-mind-control conspiracy or on the small scale, taking quotes out of context to make a more sensational story. And there are certainly journalists who have given foundation to these fears. But corruption exists in every field and these are not the principles of journalism.
A journalist’s true obligation is to the citizens, to keep them informed and to question those in power or who seek power. This often includes less than glowing reviews, and sometimes open criticism.In the past the Free Press has been accused of being overly harsh with student activists, and even of being a “mouthpiece for the administration.”
Recently, several students and faculty condemned the Free Press article “Feminism Resurrected at New School,” complaining that it showed feminism at The New School in a negative light. These objections are born out of the misconception that the reporter was solely there to recount what took place at “The Coming Resurrection,” to provide publicity, and had no right to question what was going on or engage in discussion of the larger concepts in play.
We would like to take this opportunity to assure our readers that we aim to question and challenge everything and everyone we cover, and that has nothing to do with taking sides. If we question how you do something, or why you do it, that doesn’t mean we’re against you, but that we think what you’re doing is important enough to talk about.
If a journalist merely parrots the popular and safe opinions, those opinions would turn gray and dusty, worn down by the repeated and unvaried voices. Journalism should strive to stay dedicated to the truth and to critical thought, even in the face of retaliation and controversy.