In his latest New York Times op-ed, “When a Crackpot Runs for President,” Nicholas Kristof laments the state of journalism and wonders if media has done enough to show that, according to him, any comparisons between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are false equivalencies.
I’m not sure that journalism bears responsibility, but this does raise the thorny issue of false equivalence, which has been hotly debated among journalists this campaign. Here’s the question: Is it journalistic malpractice to quote each side and leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions, even if one side seems to fabricate facts or make ludicrous comments?
We should be guard dogs, not lap dogs, and when the public sees Trump as more honest than Clinton, something has gone wrong. For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal. And somehow that is what our barks need to convey.
I’ve written about media injustice and how it is killing black America here and here. And without fail, when I speak on panels about race in media and advocacy journalism across the country, one question that always arises is that of fairness and objectivity. I addressed that in June at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.:
If institutionalized racism is the poison, then mainstream media is the IV drip pushing it into society’s veins to distort the humanity of black people.
Positioning racism as only a belief system and not a capitalist power structure with tentacles in every corners of society is the greatest trick that white supremacy ever pulled and one of the lies that writers and journalists should expose at every opportunity. But when we, as black writers and journalists, make that plain we are often dismissed as “advocacy” journalists—as if advocating for the liberation of black people is somehow at odds with fairness and objectivity.