Is Having Principles Partisan?
Does The Washington Independent mark "The Return of the Partisan Press?" asked K. Danny Glover in the National Journal’s Beltway Blogroll.
No, but the question usefully illustrates one reason why we think there is a need for independent Washington journalism. Having a point of view is not partisanship. For too long, journalists have been chastised for having a perspective on the great (and small) issues of our time, twisting themselves in knots trying to disprove their purported subjectivity, an impossible task since the very act of choosing what to report on, and why, is a subjective editorial decision. The purpose of good journalism is to arrive at the truth. Conclusions backed by the facts–such as "Global warming is happening" — are necessary, even when controversial.
The explosion of the blogosphere revealed the pent-up demand for more diverse perspectives among news consumers. At the same time that technological changes have deprived traditional news organizations of their accustomed profits. We believe that the way to serve readers in this new era is to meet reader demand with quality journalism. That means the reporter who covers the story, interviews the experts and weighs the evidence, offers his or her conclusions. Yet what newspaper readers all too often receive is "balance" in the form of "he said-she said" journalism that leaves the pursuit of truth a secondary goal. In our work, truth telling is the primary goal. That means being candid about our reporters’ beliefs, and up front about editorial perspectives. It also means rigorous adherence to the highest standards of journalism. You can have both. You need both—a moral perspective is essential to great journalism. It’s why journalists have long been called on to "comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." This isn’t partisanship, it’s ethics.
It’s no coincidence that quality publications like The Economist, The Nation, The Guardian and the Financial Times—all with very different perspectives on the issues of our time–have seen their circulation grow in recent years. They have points of view, are candid with their readers about them, and then go on to do great journalism. This is what readers want. At the same time, we will remain strictly non-partisan—meaning we won’t endorse any particular candidate for office or party. But we will have beliefs, transparently held, and a commitment to journalism that informs the public on the issues that matter.
Update: I took out a line in the original post in which I said Glover held both political principles and partisanship in "chaste disdain" because it was unnecessarily personal and detracted from my broader point.