Chris Matthews: 'This Country Was Built on Biased Reporting'
Chris Matthews grew "verklempt," he said, on Wednesday night’s Hardball, as he pondered how a class reunion made plain for him that some people watch him every night, and trust him like people trusted Walter Cronkite. From there, Matthews and his guests took up the subject of objectivity in journalism:
Ana Marie Cox, Time.com: "I also want to say that this idea about voice being very important to the current viewer and, and Eugene’s right that it’s true, that this idea that we should be aiming for objective truth in, in journalism is a relatively new thing for us."
Chris Matthews: "I agree."
Cox: "And I think what’s important is that people trust, they could trust an unbiased [sic], they could trust a biased source."
Matthews: "Okay, this country was built on biased reporting."
Matthews: "Common Sense by Thomas Paine built this country and it was a point of view -- better independence than British rule. There’s a point of view!"
"This country was built on biased reporting" ought to be played repeatedly as a Matthews motto. It certainly helped Matthews build Senator Jim Webb!
The history of this argument seems mangled on several fronts. First of all, Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer, not a newspaper man. He was more philosopher and rabble-rouser than reporter. Second, on the philosophical front they briefly touched on, the concept of objectivity is at least 100 years old now, not a recent invention. It was not done for the purposes of good citizenship. It was done as a strategy to sell more newspapers than a partisan newspaper would, to readers on just one side.
But when we at MRC attack "biased reporting," we are not saying that reporting facts with a point of view is bad. We’re not saying that National Review can’t have a fantastic article because they’re not sworn to be objective. We’ve always focused on those media outlets describing or implying themselves as objective. We're saying mangling facts in a partisan fashion and pretending you don't have a point of view is the worst combination.