Why Have Advocacy Journalism When You Can Have Just Advocacy?

It was perhaps inevitable that the embrace of advocacy journalism (and rejection of objectivity in journalism) would eventually dispense with the pretense of the journalism part.  The point was reached by National Public Radio which took the controversial step this week to announce that its journalists can engage in protests and advocacy — the abandonment of a long-standing rule for reporters to avoid such causes or demonstrations. The announcement comes on the heels of the Justice reporter for the New York Times calling all Trump supporters “enemies of the state.” New York Times reporter Nikole Hanna-Jones recently declared “all journalism is advocacy.” So that simplifies matters wonderfully for the woke. After all, why have advocacy journalism when you can simply have advocacy?

NPR announced Thursday that reporters could participate in activities that advocate for “freedom and dignity of human beings” on social media and in real life. The rule states in part:

“NPR editorial staff may express support for democratic, civic values that are core to NPR’s work, such as, but not limited to: the freedom and dignity of human beings, the rights of a free and independent press, the right to thrive in society without facing discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, or religion.”

The rule itself shows how impressionistic and unprofessional media has become in the woke era. NPR does not try to define what causes constitute advocacy for the “freedom and dignity of human beings.” How about climate change and environmental protection? Would it be prohibited to protest for a forest but okay if it is framed as “environmental justice”?

NPR seems to intentionally keep such questions vague while only citing such good causes as Black Lives Matter and gay rights:

“Is it OK to march in a demonstration and say, ‘Black lives matter’? What about a Pride parade? In theory, the answer today is, “Yes.” But in practice, NPR journalists will have to discuss specific decisions with their bosses, who in turn will have to ask a lot of questions.”

So the editors will have the power to choose between acceptable and unacceptable causes.

The inclusion of press freedom is particularly ironic as NPR itself continues to undermine core values of journalism like neutrality. Could NPR reporters protest in front of the building over this policy gutting any notion of objectivity and killing journalism? Is that a matter of “freedom and dignity”?  The policy invites subjectivity not only in journalists becoming advocacy but arbitrary judgment by editors on what will satisfy their ill-defined rule.  That may be the point. Subjectivity is the measure and, conversely, objectivity is itself a reactionary notion.

We have been discussing the rise of advocacy journalism and the rejection of objectivity in journalism schools.

Writerseditorscommentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. This movement includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that the journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”  Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.”

Benner tweeted on Tuesday during the first hearing of the Democrat-led Jan. 6 select committee was underway: “Today’s #January6thSelectCommittee underscores the America’s current, essential natsec dilemma: Work to combat legitimate national security threats now entails calling a politician’s supporters enemies of the state.” The MSNBC contributor also declared:

“As Americans, we believe that state power should not be used to work against a political figure or a political party. But what happens if a politician seems to threaten the state? If the politician continues to do so out of office and his entire party supports that threat?”…That leaves it up to voters, making even more essential free, fair access to the polls.”

Benner’s comments are indistinguishable from the Democratic members that she is covering.  The problem is that, while the Times has embraced advocacy journalism, its has not updated its guidelines which state that “Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.”

Just recently, we discussed the firing of Lauren Wolfe, who was fired for saying that she had “chills” in watching Biden land at Andrews Air Force base. Wolfe later penned a column declaring “I’m a Biased Journalist and I’m Okay With That” — a full-throated endorsement of the new journalistic model of open bias and advocacy.

The abandonment of the tradition of neutrality for reporters by NPR will hasten the decline of American journalism.  Polls show trust in the media at an all-time low with less than 20 percent of citizens trusting television or print media. Yet, reporters and academics continue to destroy the core principles that sustain journalism and ultimately the role of a free press in our society.  NPR specifically appears intent on undermining its claim for continued federal subsidies. Why should conservative and libertarian citizens pay to support a news organization that now supports its own reporters joining political causes? It is highly unlikely that causes deemed advocacy for the “freedom and dignity of human beings” would include pro-life, pro-drilling, pro-police or other more conservative causes.

American journalism is moving rapidly toward the “Gonzo” journalistic model of Hunter Thompson: “I can’t think in terms of journalism without thinking in terms of political ends. Unless there’s been a reaction, there’s been no journalism. It’s cause and effect.”

The effect of the abandonment of objectivity and now neutrality is the erasure of the line between advocacy and journalism. Eventually and inevitably it will leave only advocacy without pretense or principle.

85 thoughts on “Why Have Advocacy Journalism When You Can Have Just Advocacy?”

  1. I am fine with NPR doing as they please – as a private entity.
    If they’re going to go even further down the partisan divide, defund them.

  2. If you have ever tried to listen to NPR, this policy change simply codifies what they already do.

  3. “Mostly, it’s Fox, Fox, and more Fox…”

    Anonymous the Stupid, in recent times he has written most often to the Hill. His last column at the Washington Post was April 2020. He writes for USA Today, The LA Times and many others. He has written hundreds of quality columns. You are a know-nothing dope.

  4. Turley laments:

    “The effect of the abandonment of objectivity and now neutrality is the erasure of the line between advocacy and journalism. Eventually and inevitably it will leave only advocacy without pretense or principle.”

    Turley is an advocate himself, is he not? As a Fox employee, he is not neutral. One of these days, sooner or later, Turley will be confronted by an interviewer who will ask whether his own colleagues Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, Pirro, Watters, Gutfield, Bongino, Kilmeade, and Levin abandon objectivity and advocate without principle? If Turley says, “Of course,” do you suppose that he would be invited back onto their programs? And WHY would Turley want to legitimate Fox programs which erase the line between advocacy and journalism by appearing with such hosts?

    So many questions…. no answers….just silence

    1. Professor Turley is not a journalist. There is a difference in stating an honest and educated opinion and pretending to report the facts. The key word is educated.

      1. If Jonathan “Fox News” Turley is not a journalist, then he has no obligation to render opinions based upon facts? He is privileged to make up facts to suit his opinions?

        1. In a word, Yes. Just like NPR. The difference is Turley’s occupation, nor does his employers, presume a neutral viewpoint when reporting what he fully admits is his opinion. NPR does the exact same thing, use only facts and sources that agree with them – but they don’t, as a rule, admit they’re only giving one side of a given issue. Instead, they call it ‘truth’ and many times, ‘conclusive truth’ when in fact it’s still only opinion. That you and others might agree with their viewpoint doesn’t make it more or less ‘true’, it only means you agree with their opinion(s). Same as ‘the others’ tend to agree with their own facts and sources, even if/when you might disagree. Consider this, if everyone already agrees with you, what could you possibly be interested in talking about and just how long would that conversation last? What a boring life we’d have if everyone agreed with everyone else.

          1. Mark,

            Facts are facts, be they referenced in a news report by a journalist or in an opinion piece by a commentator. NPR and Fox News can have different options as long as they share the same facts. The problem is that listeners mistake opinions for facts because nowadays it’s not readily apparent what the role of a speaker is- reporter or commentator. In the old days, a news reporter would invite a person on to his broadcast to share his opinion. Now, the prime time hosts function as both. Obviously, this blending of fact and fiction is what viewers want because cable ratings don’t lie.

            1. Which prime time cable shows call themselves news? If any of them do, we both know they’re lying. Same with Turley, he’s never claimed to be impartial and his job doesn’t require him to be so, so why the beef with him? Because you disagree? If so, that’s your right, but it’s also just another opinion.

              1. Mark,

                Well, it’s called “Fox News” with the slogan, “We Report. You Decide.” No mention of opinion! The only Fox prime time host who expressly states that he is not a journalist is Hannity.

                Because I know that Turley is not impartial, I constantly remind his readers that he is not. Turley acknowledges his conflict of interest in working for Fox ONLY when commenting on Fox specific topics. He does NOT reveal his employment by Fox when he exclusively discredits Fox’s media competitors. In addition, Turley NEVER finds fault with his Fox colleagues (with one exception which I have found concerning Hannity appearing with Trump at a rally).

                Turley is that he is a hypocrite for not leveling the same criticism he has for CNN and MSNBC at FOX. He has sold his impartiality to Fox. That’s my beef with Turley.

                1. Hang on, are you saying he must point out his employer’s hypocrisy for you to believe his opinion? Is that required on your part for the other cable networks and their programming, even the one that has News its name (CNN)? Fair and Balanced is a slogan and a branding effort, nothing more. I don’t think FOX is claiming 50% left news and 50% right, it’s just a slogan. And how exactly is it that you’re able to determine the difference between opinion and straight reporting but others, mostly the folks who disagree with you, are dumber than a box of rocks in that area of their own lives? Your insistence that someone bite the hand that feeds them for your entertainment says more about you that perhaps you’re aware. I mean, it’s just tv. Change the channel if you don’t like what you see or just turn it off and lower your stress level. And maybe stop reading Turley if what he says is so unreasonable to you that you feel compelled to criticize every post simply because he won’t do what you want. It not worth your own health to be upset over something you have no control – other people’s opinions.

                  1. Thanks for your advice. I may just follow it, but until I do, I have a voice, and I intend to use it here.

                    A hypocrite is essentially a liar (after they have been made aware of their hypocrisy but do nothing to rectify the problem). I have a problem discerning fact from opinion just like everyone else. Sometimes it’s obvious but often not. That is why I am complaining about it and point out where Turley is overlooking his hypocrisy on account of his contract with Fox.

  5. Seems like there could be a marketing opportunity for a company striving to provide unbiased reporting.

    1. Barnum, a news story has to have some point of view. If even lying hustlers were treated objectively, readers and viewers would have no idea what to make of any given story.

      1. You might not understand, but most people would. News is supposed to provide fact absent opinion so people can make up their own minds.

        I understand your position. For you to understand anything it has to be predigested by a left-wing article or fact checker. You don’t have the ability to make up your own mind based on the facts. That is why you are wrong most of the times.

  6. Tyrannical movements always have their reasons why they feel their particular brand of totalitarianism is justified.

    Don’t worry, destroying free speech is perfectly alright because…

    Ruining someone’s life because of something they said privately 30 years ago is a virtue because…

    Working to impoverish someone who disagrees with your politically, make them lose their job or their business, is virtuous because…

    1. Karen, are you referring to all the Republicans Trump has threatened to ruin for not showing sufficient fealty?

  7. Predictably Turley’s Conservative Regulars Mistakenly Believe NPR is government funded.

    While NPR does not receive any direct federal funding, it does receive a small number of competitive grants from CPB and federal agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce. This funding amounts to approximately 2% of NPR’s overall revenue.

    Source: “NPR” – Wikipedia

    Core listeners of NPR have long-known that only a fraction of NPR’s budget comes from government sources. But Turley regulars dwell in a universe that revolves around manufactured outrage.

    1. I’m starting to think that Anonymous is the pen name for Jonathan Gruber, counting on the stupidity of blog readers and doing and doing whatever it takes to advance the Progressive cause.

      The propagandists over at NPR helpfully point out on their website that

      “Federal funding is ESSENTIAL to public radio’s service to the American public. Its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.”

      Let’s all join together and re-read that quote in our best NPR announcer voices. With just the right mix of earnestness, seriousness and gravitas. And right after this segment of All (Progressive) Things Considered: “Please send us your money so that we can counter the threat from racist far right Republicans. And not have to pay our taxes, which are unfair to good Progressives like us.”

      Heck, Anonymous, Federal funding is such a miniscule part of their budget that they even bold the word ESSENTIAL on their website. Critical, even. But then again they claim to be in the service of the American public. By which they mean in the service of the Democrats and their fellow travelers in the Biden administration. So we can’t rule out the possibility that they aren’t telling the truth and Anonymous is on to something. And don’t forget they are tax exempt, so they don’t even pay their fair of taxes like other propaganda outlets.

      NPR is Democrat propaganda. Defund them. Let them run as a private business. And tax them like one.

      1. Epstein, we notice you have no link to show. Nor are you citing any specific percentage. One might also note that NPR is an essential source of news and public affairs in many smaller markets that lack commercial stations.

    2. “Core listeners of NPR have long-known that only a fraction of NPR’s budget comes from government sources.”

      That is false. And you are playing a shell game with *NPR’s* funding.

      About 50% of NPR’s funding comes from dues and fees paid by “public” member stations. Those member stations are predominately funded by the federal government, i.e., taxpayers (along with local and state governments, and universities — i.e., taxpayers.)

      “CPB [the Corporation for Public Broadcasting] is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting and the *largest single source* of funding for public radio, television, and related online and mobile services.” (Emphasis added.)


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