Linda Greenhouse on why “the opposite of objectivity isn’t partisanship.”
“The opposite of objectivity isn’t partisanship, or needn’t be,” Linda Greenhouse writes in her new book Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between. “Rather, it is judgment, the hard work of sorting out the false claims from the true and discarding or at least labeling the false.”
Greenhouse, who covered the US Supreme Court for nearly three decades for the New York Times, maintains in her book that journalists all too often abandon the search for truth for the sake of illusionary fairness.
She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for her Supreme Court coverage, and retired from the Times staff in 2008 after a 40-year tenure (she’s still a contributing op-ed writer for the paper). In one famous instance in 1989, Greenhouse violated the Times’s conflict of interest policies by marching for abortion rights, even as she was covering the high court’s decisions on abortion. In a speech to a Harvard Radcliffe College alumnae group, she criticized the “law-free zones” at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Haditha — again, while working as an objective reporter at the Times (she told the Times’s then-public editor that her remarks were “statements of fact”). In both cases, the Times publicly stated that Greenhouse broke their rules but did not mention if the violation affected her role.
Just a Journalist began as a series of lectures she gave at Harvard in 2015, a time when, she writes, “Donald J. Trump was such an implausible candidate that I took no account of how mainstream journalism was treating him.” Since then, she notes that Trump’s constant distortions have pointed out the flaws of the journalistic norm of “fair and balanced” objectivity, including by her former employer the Read More Here