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Monday, July 1, 2013

Carr Talk

David Carr's Monday column at NYT takes up the now long-running (two weeks) debate over journalism vs. activism.  He got embroiled a bit when he (as I covered first, I believe) with another writer described Alexa O'Brien, who has been covering the Bradley Manning trial for months, as an activist, not an "independent journalist," and the article was soon corrected after I helped fan the uproar.  He makes some good points but his closing will do no doubt draw more criticism.  It's not Greenwald who is ignoring substance of his reports and leading "campaign" to put him at center of story.
Journalists are responsible for following the truth wherever it may guide them. Both Ms. Gibson and Mr. Greenwald said that they would quickly follow the Snowden story even if it led to something that questioned his motives or diminished his credibility. But I do think that activism — which is admittedly accompanied by the kind of determination that can prompt discovery — can also impair vision. If an agenda is in play and momentum is at work, cracks may go unexplored.
That is not to say that Mr. Greenwald’s work is suspect, only that the tendentiousness of ideology creates its own narrative. He has been everywhere on television taking on his critics, which seems more like a campaign than a discussion of the story he covered.
Activists can and often do reveal the truth, but the primary objective remains winning the argument. That includes the argument about whether a reporter has to be politically and ideologically neutral to practice journalism.
Also see Twitter back and forth today between Times'  @DamienCave and @GGreenwald. 

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