Columbia Journalism Review. Vol. LII, No. 5, January-February 2014

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Back in October, Bill Keller of The New York Times and Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian and now leading a new journalism venture backed by billionaire Pierre Omidyar, engaged in a celebrated and interesting 5,400-word back-and-forth on the Times website about an ancient journalism question: the relative virtues of reportorial “objectivity” (or impartiality, as Keller prefers) versus activist reporters who wear their beliefs on their sleeves.

The first term must always be surrounded by quote marks because no one seems to fully believe in it. Still, Keller describes his “impartial” journalism as being potentially as potent as any other form but one that expects reporters “to keep their opinions to themselves.” He sets his kind of journalism apart from “crusading journalists,” including the muckrakers who set the crusading standard a century ago.Greenwald counters with the often-expressed argument that objectivity is an impossible goal, and adds that this “suffocating constraint on how reporters are permitted to express themselves produces a self-neutering form of journalism that becomes as ineffectual as it is boring.”

Columbia Journalism Review. Vol. LII, No. 5, January-February 2014.

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