Al Jazeera America asks: Shouldn’t news just give the facts? The false god of utter objectivity

In a promoted tweet today, Al Jazeera America asked “Shouldn’t news just give the facts?”

The problem is with that word “just”. It implies a pure, no-additives-here neutral objectivity. Real news, untainted by bias. It reduces the news organization to “just” a fact-checker and news reader. But given limited time and resources, choices must be made: which news items will be aired? Which facts will be presented? What to leave in, what to leave out…those are editorial judgments.

Those choices are increasingly perceived to be driven in some news organizations by ratings or ideology, rather than the public interest.  In a 2010 opinion published by the Washington Post, Ted Koppel decried the death of real news, calling cable news biased and calling for a return to facts:

We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly – individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.

and,

What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts – along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor.

Actually, the op-ed piece was more about Koppel’s slightly bitter opinion that news organizations had transitioned “from a public service to a profitable commodity”, and that “company bean-counters” trimmed, cut, and eliminated Continue reading

It’s not enough to do what you love: Russell Wilson, Keith Olbermann, and the importance of organizational fit

Last night in his interview of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on ESPN’s new sports show ‘Olbermann’, Keith Olbermann noted admiringly that Wilson went in last year as a rookie and, before playing a single game, provided a list of goals to his coaches, including a goal of winning multiple Super Bowls. “Where,” Olbermann asked, “does the confidence come from to do that, before you’ve played a game in the NFL, and did you give them a new list this year?” Wilson’s response:

“Well, I think, for me, I’m a self-motivator. At the end of the day, you have to be a self-motivator if you want to do something great and, I’ve got a long ways to go. You just take one day at a time, you take those steps, and just continue to climb and continue to grow. And so, I think, you know, I definitely want to win multiple Super Bowls, but to do that you have to win the first one first and…to do that too you have to win the first game, the second game, and keep going on from there, and when you get those opportunities, when you have those game-altering plays – I call them GAP plays – when you have those GAP plays, you’ve gotta capitalize on them and when you have those game-altering situations throughout the season, you have to, you know, do the best that you can to be successful and that gives you a chance, and that’s where I’ve started, that’s where our football team starts.” (The full interview can be heard here starting at 31:30.)

Break your goals down into shorter goals, and break those down into action steps. Develop discipline. Motivate yourself. Plan your work, work your plan. Capitalize on opportunities. It’s all true. Hearing the words, you know he’s right. He’s an inspiration. You want to believe. **I** want to believe. But many of us – Olbermann included – have the career scars to demonstrate that talent and discipline are not always enough to carry the day. As it turns out, there’s more to Wilson’s story.

It goes without saying that talent – or at least decent competence – is the first requirement for any amount of success at what you do. (Note that I said success. Let’s set aside for now any snarky discussions of people who get jobs solely based on connections or favors; by definition, they’re not performing well.) And discipline and motivation are the oil and gas that get the engine running. But there is a third critical factor: the work environment. If there is a mismatch Continue reading