Time Editor: Objective Journalism a 'Fantasy'; Justifies Greening of Iwo Jima Photo
Time magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel continued to defend the magazine's doctoring of the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising photo in a speech April 21 - calling it a "point of view." But perhaps one of the most appalling revelations to come out of Stengel's defense of the photo is his idea of the role of objectivity in running a legitimate news magazine.
During his speech at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., part of the third annual Stuart J. Bullion Lecture, Stengel defied the traditional notion that journalists should be unbiased.
"I didn't go to journalism school," Stengel said. "But this notion that journalism is objective, or must be objective is something that has always bothered me - because the notion about objectivity is in some ways a fantasy. I don't know that there is as such a thing as objectivity."
Stengel supported his claim by stating the role of journalists is not to ask questions, but answer them.
"[F]rom the time I came back, I have felt that we have to actually say, ‘We have a point of view about something and we feel strongly about it, we just have to be assertive about it and say it positively,'" Stengel said. "I don't think people are looking for us to ask questions, I think they're looking for us to answer questions."
He made his remarks in the wake of a controversy sparked by magazine's use of the iconic image of Marines raising an American flag at Iwo Jima with the flag replaced by a tree. He told the Ole Miss audience it was an attention ploy.
"My feeling is you have to grab people by the lapels and say, ‘Hey, pay attention' and that was the idea of doing this," Stengel said. "[I] just think you can't be squeamish about trying to get people's attention."
He also equated the cause of climate change with the cause of the Marines who fought on Iwo Jima near the end of World War II. Stengel acknowledged the image might be offensive.
"Yes, absolutely," Stengel said, reacting to a question if he thought some might be offended by the cover. "I certainly hear that some people would be offended by it. Obviously many people have - were offended by it. But I do think, and I have made this case and I've made the case to people who have talked about it, is that climate change and we can even discuss the merits of it or not - climate change is going to affect every living human being."
"And, to say that somehow we're taking a little cause in the midst of a big cause, like the veterans of Iwo Jima seems to me to not make sense," Stengel continued. "I think what we're doing is raising both by taking two incredibly strong and powerful ideas and combining them. So it is greater than the sum of its parts, rather than either one being the less than the sum of its parts."
Leslie King contributed to this post.