Journalism is one of those things that requires a lot of fine-line walking. You look at your own biases so carefully that you almost become afraid of them.
This is especially true when your biases — your opinions, hopes, dreams, and beliefs — tend toward the easily caricatured and oft misunderstood.
The predominating thought says that if you try hard enough, you’ll be able to throttle your mental leanings until you can give any reasonable source the benefit of the doubt, without projecting your own feelings onto a story.
The best example of this is former Washington Post editor and my ASU ethics prof, Len Downie. He excels at seeing the other side of things. He even refrained from voting while at the Post, for fear that considering which candidate aligned with his personal ideologies would cause him to push for unbalanced coverage.
An anecdotal example: When asked his favorite color, he considered for a moment, and then said, “Well, beige, I suppose.”
Len will tell you that both his conservative son and liberal wife find him maddening. He’ll also tell you that he’s been this way all his life, like his mother was. He’s got objectivity in his genes.
For the rest of us, it’s a struggle. I’ve always said that I embrace opinions different from mine, because they’ll either sharpen my own or show me the flaws in my thinking. But I still do have solid opinions.
Over the last year or so, as I’ve entered the workforce full-time, I’ve gotten really, really quiet about personal beliefs. WaPo, where I interned, required my signature on a piece of paper that said I’d post nothing to social media that expressed an opinion on politics, religion, social issues or other sensitive subjects. I’ve found ways to reword things so that I don’t offend folks of other (or no) religions. I’ve consciously not posted links to things that support my political ideologies.
I see the value in this sort of thing. Problem is, it’s possible to take it too far. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve let it get to the point where I’m uncomfortable mentioning the fact that I’m a Christian unless I’m pointing out something wrong that Christians are doing, for instance. If a funny anecdote happened to me on the way back from church, I’ll leave out the location.
Well, screw that. Y’know what? I’m a Christian, and I think God’s pretty awesome. (I also think church is pretty fucked up sometimes, and that a lot of Christians are anything but Christ-like, but that’s another story.) And when I write posts like this, and all I really want to say, “Hey, God was really great to me today,” I’m going to say it. I miss that, a lot.
(I may also curse like a sailor while I’m at it. Fortunately for me, God’s perfect so I don’t have to be.)