Bob Steele on 'Activist Journalism'

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Bob Steele, pictured above, wrote a guest column for CNN on activist journalism. (Credit: Poynter)

Bob Steele wrote for CNN Sept. 30 discussing “the dangers of activist-driven journalism.”  He noted that his column shares his perspective on activist journalism, but was not inspired by a viewing of “Right on the Edge,” a CNN documentary about the conservative activist movement.

“I have a serious concern with news reporting (as distinguished from the opinion role of journalism) that is driven by ideological bias or activist intentions,” Steele wrote in his guest column.

Steele is a journalism values professor at both the Poynter Institute and DePauw University.

Steele wrote that he believes in editorial independence which “can and should guide the practice of serious, substantive journalism.”

However, he explained that ideological bias isn’t the sole reason for any of journalism’s failings.

He suggests that journalists -while acting as journalists–should still be committed to reporting objectively, not their personal beliefs.

Further, Steele wrote that activist journalism can be problematic. “Their starting premise is flawed by a distorted perception of the practice of journalism and by a false characterization of the beliefs of journalists.”  Steele explained that most people can’t be labeled conservative or liberal because they often “have a range of views on issues that move along a spectrum.”

Balanced news organizations can counter any ideological beliefs which may seep into reporting, Steele noted.   “Good news organizations have checks and balances that minimize any skewing.”

“Journalism has its flaws. Let’s improve the process and the product in the right ways, not by ideological activism,” Steele opined.

See Steele’s full post here.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics advises journalists to

  • “Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
  • “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • “Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • “Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • “Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • “Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.”

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Bob Steele on ‘Activist Journalism’

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