Journalist Rebecca Traister pointed out via Twitter that the Dr. Gosnell case, which only recently caught the mainstream media’s attention, was covered by feminist writers back in January 2011. Michelle Goldberg wrote about it for The Daily Beast and Katha Pollitt covered Gosnell’s crimes for The Nation. It’s interesting to consider why pro-lifers succeeded in highlighting a story that feminists addressed long ago. As Traister asked, “Why did this story not register AT ALL when feminist journalists were telling it, but provokes anguish when antiabortion forces blow it up?” Good question.
The reality is that, as desperately as they try, virtually no journalists are driven by…objectivity. They are, instead, awash in countless highly ideological assumptions that are anything but objective.
These assumptions are almost always unacknowledged as such and are usually unexamined, which means that often the journalists themselves are not even consciously aware that they have embraced them. But embraced them they have, with unquestioning vigor, and this renders their worldview every bit as subjective and ideological as the opinionists and partisans they scorn.
At best, “objectivity” in this world of journalists usually means nothing more than: the absence of obvious and intended favoritism toward either of the two major political parties. As long as a journalist treats Democrats and Republicans more or less equally, they will be hailed - and will hail themselves - as “objective journalists”.
But that is a conception of objectivity so shallow as to be virtually meaningless, in large part because the two parties so often share highly questionable assumptions and orthodoxies on the most critical issues. One can adhere to steadfast neutrality in the endless bickering between Democrats and Republicans while still having hard-core ideology shape one’s journalism.