Big News, Wonkers! The editorial board of the Iowa State Daily, Wonkette’s Pet College Newspaper, has made an innovative, nay, a MOMENTOUS editorial decision! In the midst of this contentious political season (not to mention the feathery distractions of swanning time), these intellectual heirs of the great Paul Harvey have bravely decided to “buck the trend” and to not endorse a candidate for President in the 2012 presidential election of America. While this editorial non-endorsement lacks the fiery conviction of the paper’s recent jeremiads against political messages written with chalk upon the public side-walks and its timely reminder that Bruce Springsteen is not a serious political expert, it does have its charms.
To begin with, it prefaces its case for bravely saying nothing by presenting a longish history of the very notion of “journalistic objectivity,” noting, quite accurately, that “Despite popular belief, newspapers are under no obligation to present political matters fairly” and suggesting what seems to us a novel view of where that assumption came from:
With the invention of radio and the advent of broadcast media (which would eventually include television), the question became whether or not radio stations could broadcast anything they wanted to, politically speaking, just as newspapers could print anything they pleased. It was eventually decided the airwaves were public property, not private property as a newspaper, and therefore stations had to give airtime to various political positions and persons.
Over time, the broadcast journalism ethic of “fair and balanced” reporting spread to newspapers, where today we find Americans constantly griping about how liberal or conservative this or that paper is.
See, as we remember’d it, the laudable-but-ultimately-unreachable goal of “journalistic objectivity” has a much longer history, dating back at least as far as the 19th century and reactions to the “yellow journalism” of the Hearst papers; we have a feeling that suggesting it was all just spillover from the FCC’s “Fairness Doctrine” says more about the editorialist’s note-taking in “Intro To Journalism” than it does about actual history. In any case, we simply want to give a hearty “Bravo!” to the editors’ defense of their Constitutional right to take sides.
Which they immediately follow with this statement:
So once again the Daily is faced with endorsing a presidential candidate: This year, we endorse no one.
Way to make the tough choice, there!
OK, we get it: it’s not a refusal to choose, it’s a principled abstention, a statement of institutional conscientious objection:
Our parties are becoming more partisan, our media fails to report facts and instead chooses to entertain, and Americans are increasingly clueless about political issues, themselves choosing to follow propaganda despite knowing how rotten the system is becoming. Until this changes, the Daily refuses to choose an evil.
That oughta learn ’em, all right. We can only imagine that both campaigns, and the American public, are at this very moment wondering what they can do to win back the trust of the Iowa State Daily.
Following this shattering rebuke of the shallowness and nastiness of American politics on Monday of last week, the Iowa State Daily went on to take firm stances supporting sidewalk reform on campus (“People finding a better or faster way to do something has brought humans out of the caves”) and calling for civility on campus buses (“Rule one: When the bus driver says move back, pick up your feet and move back!”).
We can only conclude that the future of journalism rests in fearless hands.