In Defense of Political Journalists

by Roxanne Dubois last modified 2012-07-15T17:47:51-04:00
While journalist-turned-candidate Pierre Duchesne fends off attacks for being partial, we should remember that "neutral" journalism favours the interests of the powerful elite that own the media.


The media and its loudest spokespeople have officially turned their backs on former Radio-Canada journalist, Pierre Duchesne, who announced last week he would be running as a candidate for the Parti Quebecois in the next provincial election.

Since the announcement, the PLQ has made official complaints trying to cast doubt on his integrity and attempting to discredit him. Mainstream media and political commentators were quick to denounce the move as a breach of a journalist's ethics and a conflict of interest.

The questions being asked try to frame his candidacy negatively: Who was he working for all along? Can he be trusted? Were his reports biased and subjective?

This response from the media is not surprising.

Outside and inside of the world of news media, we have all latched on to the belief that a journalist's duty is to report facts, to remove all analysis and perspective, to present the viewer with the unbiased information they need to know to develop an informed opinion of a situation. Alternatively, we also want all sides of a story to be presented so that, if not neutral, the position it is at least pluralistic.

The idea of a neutral journalist to provide balanced news was not created by journalists and the expectation of news to be delivered unslanted was not first demanded by the public. It was forced upon the industry by the handful of wealthy individuals who own the few media corporations at play in Canada and around the world.

In fact, the neutral voice came about to try and suppress the analysis provided by those journalists who believed in their role as answer-seeking watchdogs, to bring truth to light and keep politicians accountable. Journalists who know too much and have broader historical perspectives tend to work to defend principles of justice and equality and they tend to speak truth to power.

The necessary political and historical understanding required to fulfill this function is in direct conflict with the anti-democratic and repressive forces overseeing the news media business. For the owners, the more journalists are forced to be "neutral", the easier it is to create a story that serves the interest of those in power.

In the end, a journalist turned candidate is a blow to those forces trying to minimize the ability of people to question current events, either directly or through the media. It is just the type of event that shatters the idea that journalists are neutral messengers. It is no wonder, then, that the media have been lashing out.

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