New journalism ethics?

New media poses a tremendous challenge to old media, no doubt about it. There’s also no question that different media pose different ethical questions and challenges. Robert Niles makes some good points here.

But his second new rule catches my attention, where he tells us to drop that business of presenting all sides to a story and being fair to each:

… When newspapers had monopolies, we had a responsibility to our communities not to abuse our power, and to provide a neutral commons for reporting and debate.

Now, as just one among dozens, if not hundreds, of popular news voices within our communities, our responsibilities have changed. Now, we serve our busy audience and stand apart from the competition with reporting that cuts the clutter and identifies the truth among many conflicting narratives.

Gosh, I wonder why journalists never thought of that before! Cutting through the clutter and telling the truth, bashing what needs to be bashed! What could be more simple?

One wonders, though, if it’s simply a matter of hiring experts to cut through the clutter and tell the truth, why it matters that newspapers are no longer a monopoly. Isn’t that something we should have expected when they had a monopoly? He’s giving the game away a little, I think: What he’s really saying is that in a non-monopoly market, every little autonomous self can find his own media outlet that sells his own particular “truth.”

One of the main arguments against the “hire an expert” strategy (and there are arguments for, as well) is precisely that they have a bias toward their own position on controverted questions.

It’s ironic: The relativist can be absurdly arrogant about truth claims, because truth is something cheap and ephemeral and he is something profound and important. Someone who is not a relativist can, if he is honest, only hope to be humble about it, because truth is profound and important and he is small and fallible.

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