OK, this is really freaky. I’ve been publishing once a week since 1991, when I wrote for my college paper, the Chico State Orion. Publishing the day after publishing is really weird, man. I’m feeling a little woozy. If I stop mid-sentence, someone call 911. Seriously.

By the way, if you haven’t checked out CityBeat, first of all, shame on you. Here it is. Be careful, though – it’s sizzlin’ hot.

I think I’ll start by talking about journalism, because, despite what my readers might think, it’s something I know a little about. I still hear people complain about this journalist or that journalist being “biased” or “not objective.” If I were granted one wish, I would wish for the ability to teach the world that journalistic objectivity is a myth. No, wait – first I’d wish to play centerfield for the Dodgers. Then I’d wish to be a filthy-rich rock star. Then I’d wish for the ability to teach the word that journalistic objectivity is a myth. You usually get three, anyway, so it works out great.

I tell ya, it’s a good thing I got into alternative journalism (or, what my good friend Bob Kittle calls “trash”), because I realized early on that objectivity is not remotely possible, and those of us in my genre understand that. Humans are biased beings, whether they want to admit it or not. Subjectivity goes into every decision that’s made during publishing: what stories get covered; who gets interviewed and who gets ignored; how the story’s organized; who gets the first word and who gets the last word; what words get used to relate controversial content; how the headline’s constructed; where the story is placed in the paper or the broadcast; and on and on. Reporters can strive for “balance” if they want, but they can’t keep their bias out, and balance is overrated; it does nothing for the reader, listener or viewer.

Instead of balance and objectivity, reporters should try to be fair to all sides and accurate. Fairness and balance are not the same thing, by the way. Fairness means showing your audience that you at least fully understand the side of the story with which you don’t agree, and doing your best to convince your audience that they’re not being misled. But that, too, is subjective business, isn’t it?

So, that’s my opening sermon. Discuss.


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