February 23, 2008

Intellectual honesty and the Newspapers

first published on Random Acts of Thought on Feburary 22 2007

Active partisanship is an essential part of British newspaper culture. Newspapers in this country don’t sit on the fence, but have an active viewpoint they promote not just in the editorial or opinion pages but in the selection of news and headlines and the spin that is put on different stories. This is very different than the American Newspaper tradition in which the papers do their best to adhere to a neutral tone and obvious soapboxing if and when it occurs is largely confined to the editorial pages… there are biases of course. The Washington Post for example is a more conservative newspaper than the New York Times, but these differences are far more subtle than the differences between say The Guardian and The Telegraph

I don’t have a problem with either approach. However I still value fairness and intellectual honesty.

A while back the Telegraph led with the Headline


What is the problem here? Is it that Tony Blair is defying popular opinion or that the Telegraph (and its readers) don’t want road pricing. If it is the former, would the Telegraph run a similiar headline were the issue the millions of people who want city bonuses more heavily taxed? I doubt it… I have no idea how many names the Stop the War coalition amassed before the invasion of Iraq but it has to have been more than 1.8 million… Should Blair’s foreign policy decisions have been dependent on their approval? Almost nobody has a problem with politicians defying the popular will when they happen to be in the minority that agree with the politicians. Furthermore we don’t live in an Athenian style direct democracy. The problem here is that the Telegraph doesnt like road pricing. That is fine.. The 1.8 million people are not the relevant factor here. The feasibility fairness and cost of road pricing are.

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