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Do opinionated outlets have a hiring advantage?

I was interested to see that Peter Goodman, one of the New York Times' marquee economic writers, was heading to the Huffington Post. But I was more interested to read why:

"For me it's a chance to write with a point of view," Goodman says in an interview. "It's sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what's going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting."

Goodman, who spent a decade at The Washington Post before his three years at the Times, says he will still rely on facts and not engage in "ranting." And while he was happy at the newspaper, he says, he found he was engaged in "almost a process of laundering my own views, through the tried-and-true technique of dinging someone at some think tank to say what you want to tell the reader."

As the audience for opinionated outlets grows and the prestige and salary difference in writing for them narrows, I wonder how much of this we'll begin to see?

By Ezra Klein  | September 22, 2010; 11:04 AM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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Comments

The biggest complaint conservatives (generally) have had about perceived liberal media bias is that they felt the bias was being inaccurate portrayed as objective reportage. I think transitioning to more of a "buyer beware" model, where you know that if you're reading a particular author or a particular website, you can expect a particular sort of bias and take what they say thusly, is the future.

Because Peter Goodman wasn't really laundering his views, he was finding a way to manipulate the story (i.e., by calling a particular person at a particular think tank he would say what he already thought, by his own admission), and then presenting it as objective reportage. When--unless he said, "Full disclosure: I called this guy who I already know agrees with my person opinions on these issues for a quote" it wasn't actually neutral reportage of facts and an objective (or at least random) sampling of professional opinion.

Better just to admit that human beings are biased creatures, and report the news through the filter of their personal opinions and value judgements, and abandon the veneer of objectivity.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | September 22, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

That's a good point Kevin. So when Republican think tanks and the like get cited in newspapers far more often than their liberal counterparts, are complaints of a "liberal media" really credible?

Posted by: lol-lol | September 22, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

@lol-lol: "That's a good point Kevin. So when Republican think tanks and the like get cited in newspapers far more often than their liberal counterparts, are complaints of a 'liberal media' really credible?"

These days? No, not really.Used to be. But most media that insists that it is unbiased has some bias, because people are biased, and without a mechanism to attempt to assure objectivity and to neutralize biases, it's difficult to have unbiased reportage. Bias in an artifact of human nature . . . much better to say, yeah, I'm biased, so what? I'm still right about x,y,z. Here's why . . .

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | September 22, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Yes, but Kevin, he also refers to old-fashioned notions of fairness, too. So instead of asserting that the Earth is round, he dings a think tanker to claim that the Earth is round. Then he has to go to another think tank and report the 'Earth is flat' perspective.

Finally, his sub-editor writes the headline: Controversy Erupts Over Shape Of Earth.

I can see why people get fed up with that.

Posted by: vagueofgodalming | September 22, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

The guaranteed checks from George Soros to keep Media Matters from spewing propaganda to advance progessive Maoist agenda is a pretty good gig.

Regardless of how poorly it is regarded or even clicked, Soros needs what Soros needs!

Ezra - have the checks from Soros stopped now that JournoList has been stopped?? (Wink wink).

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | September 22, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The difference is the Republican Think Tanks are labelled as Republican Think Tanks.

Liberal Think Tanks are labelled as The New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, MSNBC, BBC, ABC, CBS....etc.,.etc.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | September 22, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The best Liberal Think Tank is Annenberg Fact Check Org:

So and so says Obama is lying when he says ABCD...well we asked Messiah Obama about it and he has assured us that he is telling the truth meter. Therefore=truth!

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | September 22, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

And here's FastEddie with the weapons grade derp. You should lay off the paint chips.

Posted by: lol-lol | September 22, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, my impression was that he was complaining about having to write up false equivalencies and get the opinion of people from think tanks rather than just reporting the fact that "In this situation, A is correct and not B."

There's definitely a gray area where it might be unclear whether you're talking about an objective fact or whether there's some kind of reasonable disagreement. It can sometimes be a tough call. On the other hand, conservative assaults on liberal bias in the media while simultaneously forwarding completely meritless arguments have led us to where we are today. Somebody says something which is wrong and the media just teaches the controversy.

Posted by: MosBen | September 22, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Mr. Goodman is willing to become an undisguised purveyor of agit-prop because the Times no longer offers opportunity for a long term career. It is not in the best financial order. Prudent young men look to their future. (I have always wondered if Journolist sorts were not paid by some eminence grise to co-ordinate the agit-prop - again, because one must look to the future, and newspapers are dying. Inter alia, George Soros and certainly Ms. Huffingto are willing to spend vast sums to advance the Shining-Path-spectrum leftist view. Mr. Goodman is merely moving one step closer to the source.)

Posted by: dante99654 | September 22, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"Jourolist" - Drink!
"Soros" - Drink!
"Leftist" - Drink!

Posted by: lol-lol | September 22, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I was under the impression that the Huffington Post didn't pay its writers. Am I wrong about that? Or is there an exception for marquee columnists?

Posted by: dubiousraves | September 22, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

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