There Is Nothing Wrong With Advocacy Journalism — Hell, Our News Media Have Been Doing It For The Right Wing For Years

Quick — who are the most popular journalists at MSNBC? By journalists, I mean people capable of working journalistically because they’ll back up everything they say with receipts?

Joy Reid just premiered her show The ReidOut to huge ratings. Rachel Maddow’s interview of Mary Trump killed everything else on TV the night it aired. Nicolle Wallace — once Sarah Palin’s handler — has become a beacon of clear-eyed, ethical reportage. None of them shies away from the “political bent” their journalism clearly favors — that is, by telling the story correctly, with full perspective, the story forces them to certain conclusions the facts spell out. Those conclusions — in the current environment — support one side’s arguments over the other not because they’re politically better but because one argument is moral and the other is immoral.

Those three women — plus Ali Velshi — represent a kind of journalism that doesn’t seek to take sides but, now that it knows what it knows, it must START from a place that “appears” to support one side only in that so does the truth. The truth supports only one side here — because only one side in this argument HAS “a side”. Bullshit and lies are not one “side” of an argument. They’re an attempt to de-legitimesize the argument as a whole. To give them any sort of credence is to say “Okay, but what if bullshit was true?”

That’s a false dichotomy since bullshit is never true. We shouldn’t have to consider the possibilities of doing things because “bullshit says” because why would anyone listen to bullshit in the first place?

“Both sides do it” journalists, that’s who.

“Both sides do it” journalism is corporate journalism’s answer to any sort of burgeoning advocacy journalism. “Don’t get on your high horse,” it wants to tell advocacy journalism, about the injustice it wants to actively engage, “Democrats ‘do it too’.” What they’re equating — if there’s anything to equate — is “Republicans are corrupt” but “so are Democrats”. Republicans may be corrupt on a scale that dwarfs anything any Democrat could even imagine but if even one Democrat behaves corruptly?

Both sides do it.

So — there’s no point in seeing Democrats’ reacting to Republicans behaving criminally for what it is since (the theory says) Democrats behave just as criminally (both sides do it). Therefore, Democrats are just behaving politically. And just like that — following the rule of law becomes a political act.

Fox News has been acting as the GOP’s propaganda arm forever and everyone knows it. They even say it out loud. Fox News regularly practices advocacy journalism. So long as we all understand that that’s true? I, for one, don’t have a problem. I’m all for MSNBC owning outright its left-leaning nature. Remember — if leaning left wasn’t paying off for MSNBC, they wouldn’t be doing it. Leaning left DOES pay off. We may not deliver the zombie numbers of Fox viewers but (in a normal economy), left-leaning viewers are further up the purchasing power food chain.

Remember: most major buying decisions in American households are made by women. Piss them off and they’ll stop buying your products. That’s what big advertisers like Coca Cola recognized a few years ago when they told Fox News they would no longer advertise on Bill O’Reilly’s prime time show. Coca Cola knew from research that if they did stick with O’Reilly, a big chunk of their customers would stop buying their products because Bill O’Reilly had a habit of abusing women and sexually abusing women. The 21st Century Fox board knew it had no choice but to kill its cash cow. To have kept O’Reilly would have been far more expensive.

Perversely, that was an example of the roots of advocacy journalism — wanting to do the right thing — catching up to Fox News via its board room.

The “Right Thing” exists. It’s real and it’s doable. It applies to ordinary citizens and our politicians. It applies to journalists, too. Freedom after all is not free. It can’t be because nothing is free. The cost of being free is having responsibilities and obligations TO that freedom. These aren’t abstract debts — they’re real. If you don’t pay your debt, your obligation will soon overwhelm you.

American journalism also has an obligation — the one enumerated in the first amendment — to be the final check on power. That, all by itself, is advocacy journalism. Right is being advocated over might.

In other parts of the world — England, for instance — where newspaper cultures still exist, it’s understood that The Daily Telegraph and the Times Of London are right-leaning if not entirely right wing newspapers while The Guardian and The Independent have a more progressive bent. In other words — the editorial slant of the papers is well known up front. The journalism stands on its own — though the stories they pursue do answer their call toward progressivism. So long as a journalistic source makes that clear up front?

Then they have no other explaining to do to justify their work and their conclusions. You can measure their investigations and work against their politics and make up your own mind as to how much their politics colored their investigation. If, however, the investigation is well-documented? That fact should speak loudest.

While Progressive advocacy journalism will absolutely have a political sheen to it, everything below the sheen is real. That’s the nature of advocacy journalism because what advocacy journalism is always advocating for: the Truth.

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