I suppose I should start this by saying I’m a Democrat.
And not your run of the mill Obama Democrat either. I have supported every Democratic candidate for the Presidency since Clinton’s re-election when I was six.
It’s partly to do with the nature of American politics where you kind of have to be on one side or another, partly my parents’ influence and partly the result of an early childhood growing up in Silicon Valley.
However whatever the reason, over the past few days, or indeed the few weeks, it has made me abandon my usual somewhat half-hearted attempt to stay party politically neutral.
It goes without saying that journalists have opinions. However, whether or not they should be so open about them becomes a bit more tricky.
As mostly an opinion writer, writing what I think is how I make my living. However, despite being obviously left wing, I do not want to express a preference for any political party.
This is to do with the fact that, despite my support for the Democrat Party, I have always found party politics a little distasteful. I do not believe in supporting one ideology or a party line slavishly regardless of what they do or say. I personally think sticking too an ideology to vehemently, whether right or left, political or non-political is dangerous as it prevents you from being open to new ideas.
As one of my heroes, E.M. Forster once said ‘Faith is the stiffening of the mental starch that ought to be applied as liberally as possible’.
However, when it comes to American politics issues over social mobility, women’s rights and my belief in Keynesian economics over Reaganomics means I end up taking sides as it feels too important not to.
The weird thing about journalists is that as the fourth estate we are in a position of trust without being elected.
Journalism, though it may not seem like it at the moment, is a public good in the same way politics technically is; it can be used to inform, right wrongs and enforce positive change for the common good.
However because of this position of influence, should journalists refrain from endorsing one particular party or one particular candidate?
Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for Work and Pensions, condemned the what he thought was the biased reporting of the US election against Mitt Romney and commentators from the heart of the Republican party are already condemning the ‘liberal media bias’ for Obama’s win (despite Fox News being America’s most popular news station and Rush Limbaugh having the most popular radio show).
Reporters have a duty to be as impartial as possible even though in practice it is impossible not to let some bias slip through the net. That is why when I do write news I make it as neutral as I can regardless of what paper, blog or magazine I’m writing for.
However when I write comment should I adhere to similar constraints? When it comes to individual policy or broader political ideas such as socialism, libertarianism or conservatism it is probably good to pick a side but should we stop short of telling someone how to vote?
–Image courtesy of the Guardian.