Ron Fournier says he regards Sandy Johnson, his predecessor as head of The Associated Press’s Washington bureau, as “a mentor.”And Mr. Taranto is right in my opinion. Once a news agency abandons objectivity they cease to be a credible news source. By allowing opinion to be presented amongst fact even a little they create a slippery slope and risk becoming nothing more than a well funded investigative blog. And while I wouldn't mind seeing a few more of those around the need for truly objective journalism is even greater. Does this mean I won't be quoting the AP anymore? Nope. But it does mean that I will be scanning the articles that I link to for obvious bias.
Johnson, though, regards Fournier, who replaced her in a hard-feelings shake-up in May, as a threat to one of the most influential institutions in American journalism.
“I loved the Washington bureau,” said Johnson, who left the AP after losing the prestigious position. “I just hope he doesn’t destroy it.”
There’s more to her vinegary remark than just the aftertaste of a sour parting. Fournier is a main engine in a high-stakes experiment at the 162-year old wire to move from its signature neutral and detached tone to an aggressive, plain-spoken style of writing that Fournier often describes as “cutting through the clutter.”
In the stories the new boss is encouraging, first-person writing and emotive language are okay.
So is scrapping the stonefaced approach to journalism that accepts politicians’ statements at face value and offers equal treatment to all sides of an argument. Instead, reporters are encouraged to throw away the weasel words and call it like they see it when they think public officials have revealed themselves as phonies or flip-floppers.
The new approach was on display in a Liz Sidoti news analysis written earlier this month with the lead, “John McCain calls himself an underdog. That may be an understatement.”
Fournier and other critics of the conventional press model, especially those on the left, have said that being released from the tired conventions of news writing is exactly what journalism needs.
By these lights, the mentality that presumes both sides of an argument are entitled to equal weight is what prevented the media from challenging the Bush administration more aggressively on the Iraq war and other issues.
Others warn that what Fournier and other proponents see as truth-telling can easily bleed into opinionizing — exactly the opposite of the AP’s mission of “delivering fast, unbiased news.”
“The problem,” says James Taranto, the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web columnist and a frequent critic of what he sees as the AP’s liberal bias, “is that while you can do opinion journalism and incorporate reporting into it, you can’t say you’re doing straight reporting, and then add opinion to that.”
This Liberal Media Bias