The drive to break from forced neutrality

THE DRIVE TO BREAK FROM FORCED NEUTRALITY…. Peter Goodman, who’s been a rising star at the New York Times, covering the economy and business news, agreed this week to leave the paper and sign on with the Huffington Post. Goodman’s move, a coup for the online outlet, is a reminder about just how serious a media powerhouse HuffPost is becoming.

But what seemed especially interesting about this wasn’t the transition, but rather, the motivation behind it. Goodman chatted with Howard Kurtz about his reasoning.

“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.”

It’s been one of the most glaring flaws in major American media for far too long — news outlets can tell the public about a story, but they won’t tell the public’s who’s right. Every story has to offer he-said/she-said coverage, and every view has to be treated as entirely legitimate. (“Republicans today said two plus two equals five; Democrats and mathematicians disagree.”)

To tell news consumers about a controversy is fine. To tell news consumers who’s objectively correct is to be “biased.”

For the public that wants to know who’s right, and not just who’s talking, it creates a vacuum filled by online outlets. For journalists who want to “tell readers directly what’s going on,” it creates an incentive to abandon news organizations that demand forced neutrality.