This Time Magazine reporter argues that all journalists should tell their readers who they’re voting for:
“There are a lot of reasons reporters don’t reveal their preferences, and they’re understandable. Showing your cards in public can make it hard to get access to sources, the argument goes; it will make readers suspicious; you and your publication/network/website will drown in charges of bias.
Pretty much all the reasons, though, boil down to the fact that revealing your preferences is a royal pain in the ass. But journalistic practices shouldn’t be judged by whether they make our jobs harder; they should be judged by whether they serve you better.
Modern, mainstream, American political reporting is based on maintaining the transparently bogus illusion of neutrality: that reporters do not care about the outcomes of elections that they spend far too much of their lives covering. It is also based in the legitimate, and true, premise of fairness: that people can have preferences and yet not use their work in service of those preferences. Showing one’s voting cards would shatter the bogus illusion of neutrality; but it would not only serve the premise of fairness, it could actually help media outlets convince a skeptical public that fairness is possible…
And one of the best pieces of journalism to come out of the 2000 election was the Alexandra Pelosi documentary Journeys with George, where Pelosi got vast access to candidate Bush and offered a sometimes-scathing analysis of the media bubble on the campaign plane–even though she was not only an open liberal but the daughter of Nancy Pelosi. Bush knew she ws never going to vote for him; but then neither was most of his press entourage. She, at least, was willing to say it. (In a telling section, the press pack gets furious with Pelosi after she takes a straw poll of them–which Gore wins–and it gets leaked to the news.) In other countries and other times, reporters with political points of view have been the rule, not the exception.
Would it make readers and viewers more mistrustful? Ha! More mistrustful than what? One reason that the media-criticism blogosphere is so suspicious and often toxic is that everyone is a tea leaf reader now. The objective of media criticism becomes figuring out a journalist’s motivations and loyalties first, and whether the report is actually any good second. (If a story is a piece of crap, it’s a piece of crap regardless of who the writer supports.) There’s no illusion of neutrality to protect anymore; people don’t believe it anyway, nor should they. The more journalists state their views, the more we can get past the I-know-who-you-voted-for-last-fall game.