Helping the Almost-Journalists Do Journalism

As traditional news organizations face increasing pressure to cut back on investigative reporting and depend more heavily on celebrity and puff pieces (cheap to produce, attractive to advertisers, accessible to a mass audience), Dan Gillmor suggests that advocacy groups such as the ACLU have an opportunity to fill the gap.  If only they were fairer to the opposing view…

They’re falling short today in several areas, notably the one that
comes hardest to advocates: fairness. This is a broad and somewhat
fuzzy word. But it means, in general, that you a) listen hard to people
who disagree with you; b) hunt for facts and data that are contrary to
your own stand; and c) reflect disagreements and nuances in what you
tell the rest of us.

Advocacy journalism has a long and honorable history. But the best
in this arena have always acknowledged the disagreements and nuances,
and they’ve been fair in reflecting opposing or orthogonal views and
ideas.

By doing so, they can strengthen their own arguments in the end. At
the very least they are clearer, if not absolutely clear, on the other
sides’ arguments, however weak. (That’s sides, not side; there are
almost never only two sides to anything.)