Search Results for: "objective nonsense"

Objective Nonsense (part 31)

Remember the claim made by Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic, that the Magazine has “no agenda”? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

In our ongoing rebuttal to Chris’s unsupportable claim, we present this excerpt from “Yellow Fever: A hundred and twenty-five years of National Geographic,” an essay by Adam Gopnik that appears in next week’s edition of The New Yorker:

Yellow-Fever-New-Yorker-excerpt-National-Geographic

 { The full version is behind a paywall here. }

Given that our Society has promoted this “agenda” for more than a century, why would Chris insist we didn’t have an agenda, and say so on such a public stage? Why would he distance himself, the Magazine, and the Society from its own history? Why pretend?

Because pretending opens the door to China.

Chris Johns Terry Adamson China National Geographic Liu Xiaobo

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)

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Postscript: In this video from Russian TV (below), Terry Adamson admits what Chris Johns won’t, but you can tell Terry doesn’t like saying it out loud and in public. Listen for: “… it may have been somewhat the case.” (Adam Gopnik has no such doubts.)

Objective Nonsense (part 30)

Remember Chris Johns’ claim that National Geographic has “no agenda”? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

In our ongoing rebuttal to Chris’s unsupportable claim, we give you: 

Read the whole thing here

Objective Nonsense (part 29)

“[National Geographic photographer Stephanie Sinclair] understands that others may want to pass judgment, but that is not her role. She photographs what she sees and provides the opportunity for insight. The rest is up to the reader. 

In a world full of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts…. It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

— NGM Editor Chris Johns

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They don’t call photographers “shooters” for nothing.
(via Beware of Images

Objective Nonsense (part 28)

“In a world full of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts…. It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

— NGM Editor Chris Johns

“Unbiased”? “For more than 120 years”? Hardly.

“Whether the identity in question is at the individual or national level, the concept of otherness, of difference, is critical in defining a distinct self. Like its popular — and for-profit — magazine compatriots [the Saturday Evening Post, and Reader’s Digest], National Geographic helped to articulate an American identity in opposition to both old Europe and primitive non-Western regions. It was an identity of civic and technological superiority but yet, a distinctively benign and friendly identity.

– from the introduction of Presenting America’s World: Strategies of Innocence in National Geographic Magazine, 1888-1045, by Tamar Y. Rothenberg

Why does National Geographic no longer have much, if any, interest in articulating an American identity — or even a Western (democratic) one? And why does Chris Johns deny — despite the overwhelming evidence — that National Geographic once championed a particular point of view?

Because if you deny that, you get to do this:

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with National Geographic’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)

 

Objective Nonsense (part 27)

Remember Chris Johns’ claim that National Geographic has “no agenda”? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

As part of our ongoing rebuttal to Chris’s unsupportable claim, we present Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic:

Conor Friedersdorf

“… To borrow a phrase, every editor who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that propagating the myth of ‘objective journalism’ is indefensible. A newspaper or radio program may try to hide or obscure the fact that the people responsible for its content have opinions, convictions, and biases. But it is impossible to function as a journalist without making subjective judgment calls about newsworthiness, relevance and emphasis, or covering issues about which you have an opinion. Pretending otherwise requires willfully misleading the public. …

“To tout and enforce your viewlessness is to hold your own reputation hostage to reality….”

It may seem like a good idea to avoid the “perception of bias” by insisting that media employees hide who they are from the audience. Perhaps it was once even tenable. It no longer is. To build your credibility on viewlessness is to concede, every time an employee of yours is shown to be a sentient, opinionated person, that your credibility has taken a hit. To tout and enforce your viewlessness is to hold your own reputation hostage to reality; it makes your credibility, the most valuable thing you have, vulnerable to every staffer’s Tweet, or incriminating Facebook photograph, or inane James O’Keefe hidden video sting operation. She claims to be neutral, but look, while out at a dinner with friends we caught her on camera saying that she thinks Obama is a better president than was Bush. See! She was hiding her liberal views from us all along!

Who is even fooled at this point?”

Please read the whole thing here.

Objective Nonsense (part 26)

Remember Chris Johns’ claim that National Geographic has “no agenda”? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

Why would Chris make a claim which is demonstrably false? Here’s one theory: National Geographic once relied on members, not advertisers, for support. But now, with so many members leaving the Society, Chris is scrambling to shore up the “deal… struck between advertisers, publishers, and journalists”:

Joshua Benton

… The idea that journalists should be impartial in reporting news is a relatively recent one. “A lot of newspaper people treat it as one true religion, when it’s an artifact of a certain set of economic and historical circumstances,” says Joshua Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab. America’s Founding Fathers nurtured a vibrant, fiercely partisan press with no licensing of newspapers or policing of content. During the 19th century newspapers gradually adopted a more objective stance, for several reasons. By appealing to a wider audience, they were able to increase their circulation and hence their advertising revenue. Consolidation, and the emergence of local newspaper monopolies, also promoted impartiality. “When you are the only paper in town, you can’t risk pissing off liberals by being too conservative, or vice versa,” says Mr Benton.

With the professionalisation of journalism in the early 20th century came a more detached style of reporting. In effect, a deal was struck between advertisers, publishers and journalists, says New York University’s Jay Rosen. Journalists agreed not to alienate anyone so that advertisers could aim their messages at everyone. That way the publishers got a broader market and the journalists got steady jobs but gave up their voices.

Read the whole thing here.

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“Gave up their voices”? Yes, indeed.

 The Way We Were
(when membership mattered most):

NGM, May 1953

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The Way We Are
(as publishers chase “a broader market”):

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM's new publishing partnership in the People's Republic of China. (2007)

Objective Nonsense (part 25)

Remember Chris Johns’ claim that photographer Stephanie Sinclair has “no agenda” when she shoots her stories? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

Stephanie Sinclair

In 24 installments of this ongoing series, we’ve documented why Chris is wrong.

Today, we present Stephanie Sinclair, whose most recent story for National Geographic is about child brides. Here’s what she told NPR about this practice of 25-year-old men marrying 6-year-old girls:

“I strongly believe there is not just a need for awareness-raising and prevention work, but we must find ways to help these girls who are already in these marriages — be it through giving financial incentives to their families to let them stay in school, or vocational training so they can have more say in their lives and households. Quality medical treatment is also needed for girls who are giving birth at these young ages. These girls need long-term solutions. There is no quick fix.

I am a firm believer in Desmond Tutu’s words,I am because we are.”

Sounds like Stephanie has a well-defined agenda — and God bless her for that.

Even National Geographic magazine has an obvious agenda on this issue. In the Letters section of the October 2011 issue, there’s a list of groups that “work to delay girls’ marriages and improve their lives”:

Summing up:

√  The practice of little girls marrying grown men? Our Society is against it.

√  Communism? For decades, our Society was against it.

√  The rise of fascism in Europe in the 1940s? Our Society was (eventually) against it.

But what about now, Chris Johns? Is our Society for or against the rise of theocratic and autocratic regimes? Why do you remain silent when a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in China is put under house arrest — or when you visit the Middle East? When confronted by anti-democratic bullies, why do you suddenly start “inspiring people to care about the planet”?

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate the launch of NGM-China in 2007 (left) and NGM-Arabic in 2010 (right)

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≡ photo of Stephanie Sinclair via the University of Florida 

Objective Nonsense (part 24)

This Objective Nonsense series began 23 installments ago with Chris Johns describing a photo review at NGS headquarters:

Chris Johns

The room darkens, and Stephanie Sinclair’s photographs flash on the screen. For months she has been photographing members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the FLDS. Its members are known to most of us because they believe in polygamy, but Stephanie’s photographs tell a deeper, broader story. …

Stephanie has no agenda. She does not judge. There is nothing superficial or glib about her work. Her photographs are honest. They reflect her insatiable curiosity. They also reflect her compassion and sense of responsibility. … Stephanie understands that others may want to pass judgment, but that is not her role. She photographs what she sees and provides the opportunity for insight. The rest is up to the reader.

In a world full of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.

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Dear Chris,

We’ve been documenting why we think your claim is nonsense. Now, in the June 2011 issue of NGM, you’ve made our case for us (again) with another story by Stephanie Sinclair. The title — Too Young to Wed — is pure bias. You’re not just presenting facts, you’re staking out a clear moral position: Five-year-old girls should not be forced to marry 25-year-old men. (This bias of yours is one we heartily endorse.)

The NGM website also includes a How To Help page, with links to the International Center for Research on Women, Equality Now, The Veerni Project, and a variety of other organizations that “are encouraging families to delay marriage and give girls an opportunity to reach their full potential. They welcome your financial support — an investment in improving the lives of women and girls worldwide.”

This is a wonderful agenda. We applaud your support of it (although we would have been more impressed if you’d published this financial appeal in the print version of NGM instead of tucking it away in a back room of the website).

Our question: When are you going to print a correction to the “no agenda” Editor’s Note that you published last year?

(Given the Note’s high-profile spot in the Magazine — full-page, front of the book — it really is a whopper of a mistake.)

Objective Nonsense (part 23)

Editor Chris Johns claims National Geographic has no agenda, and that it is “committed to an unbiased presentation of the facts.”

But Zahi Hawass puts such nonsense to rest. In this interview, Hawass — who was appointed Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities by President Hosni Mubarak just days before Mubarak was forced from office — is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He is one of the marquee talents who personify the National Geographic brand. He’s one of Our Guys.

Watch and listen to this interview — initially posted by the BBC on February 6, 2011, in the midst of the massive protests in Egypt — and see if you can spot any bias or agenda:

Objective Nonsense (part 22)

“In a world full of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic
are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts….
It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”
— NGM Editor Chris Johns

Not only is Chris Johns’ claim historically inaccurate, it’s also logically and morally untenable:

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

“Though the axiom says there are two sides to every story, that is not always the case. What was the other side of World War II? The civil rights movement? Watergate? Would Liz Trotta have lectured Walter Cronkite for questioning the Vietnam War?

Sometimes there are not two sides, or at least, not two sides both consonant with our broadest understanding of human rights, human wrongs and human reason. To chain reporters to some model of ethics that does not acknowledge this is to make reporters ridiculous and irrelevant.”

Leonard Pitts Jr., a columnist for the Miami Herald, won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004.

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≡  Hat tip: a loyal reader
≡  photo of Leonard Pitts Jr. via ASNE

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