Where the idea of fair and impartial journalism came from
Today's journalists would like you to think that they can be impartial, unjudgemental, and fair in their reporting. Why, they are above the fray, not needing to take sides, lest their "integrity" be compromised.
Today's journalists, such as those from the New York Times, CBS News, etc long checked their integrity outside the door. They are no longer objective, neutral reporters, but organs of a vast Liberal network. Some would say that Fox News is the tool of conservatives, or at least the neo-conservatives.
I was reading a bit of family history the other night. My great-grandfather, E.B. McConnell, was a small town newspaper editor/owner in the 1900's through 1940's. He owned and published our local paper, the Humeston New Era. I'd like to think I get a little writing skill from his genetics...
E.B. kept his paper independent in politics. While he and great-grandma Agnes were Republicans, their articles did not appear slanted.
Why not use the press as a bully pulpit, E.B.? Convert the masses to the right way of thinking through your words! Be an agent of change! Crusade for what is right (in your eyes)!
E.B. was smarter than that, however. He knew if he leaned too far left or right, he'd lose readers, and therefore, his livelyhood. Opinions are one thing, but when your bread and butter is threatened, you learn to keep them to yourselves real quick.
On one occasion, in 1924, E.B. did voice his opinion on an apparantly controversial subject - whether the town should have a sewer system put in. He supported this effort of modern sanitation, and the pages of the New Era echoed its virtues. However, some outhouse lovers rebelled and dropped their subscriptions - and their source of toilet paper. While E.B. was right, he lost some revenue, and soon after he returned to more independent writing.
Fair and impartial writing came about, or at least is reinforced, by the notion of trying to reach the greatest audience by appearing to be, well, fair and balanced. That way, a paper may have something for every personal pursuasion and leaning, and could be counted on as a source of undisputable information. Reaching more people means making more money, which is the reason, after all, why a paper exists in the first place. The idea of spreading news alone is noble, but really, it's a vehicle to profit through.
If the writers of the New York Times, or Dan Rather himself, had their pay tied directly to the level of subscriptions at any given time, I think they'd do their best to keep on the straight edge of independent writing and integrity. For while morals break down after a while, money talks, and money walking away screams. If this system had been in place, we might not have had forged National Guard documents, and Dan wouldn't have had to take early retirement.