Returning to the View from Nowhere

I retired from journalism eight years ago. I’m an American citizen. That gives me the right to express any opinion I want, including endorsing whomever I please for president.

So what to make of this column that argues that someone out of journalism shouldn’t express a political opinion because it might damage media credibility? In this case, the writer at Poynter argues that Sam Donaldson, who is 85, should not have endorsed a presidential candidate.

“Donaldson is free to do as he pleases, but it’s disappointing and damaging that he felt his endorsement of a presidential candidate was more important than preserving the integrity of the institution that he served so well for most of his life,” Tom Jones writes.

I suppose this espousal of the “View from Nowhere” is a perfectly reasonable position…for someone stuck in the 20th century.

Jay Rosen started writing about journalism’s use of the View from Nowhere back in 2003. “If in doing the serious work of journalism–digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat–you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority. It may even add to it,” he writes in a 2010 Q&A.

I express opinions here and on social media. Regular readers know where I stand politically. Do News & Record readers now think, “Oh, no! I wondered if the paper was biased, and now I know for sure! I’m not going to trust the paper any more!” I doubt it. Put aside, for a moment, the fact that the paper has had three editors and three owners since I left it. (Also put aside the fact that 99.9 percent of News & Record readers don’t read this blog.)

Jay again: “In the old way, one says: ‘I don’t have a horse in this race. I don’t have a view of the world that I’m defending. I’m just telling you the way it is, and you should accept it because I’ve done the work and I don’t have a stake in the outcome…’ 

“In the newer way, the logic is different. ‘Look, I’m not going to pretend that I have no view. Instead, I am going to level with you about where I’m coming from on this. So factor that in when you evaluate my report. Because I’ve done the work and this is what I’ve concluded…’

“If the View from Nowhere continues on, unchallenged, trust in the news media will probably continue to decline.”

Read the whole Q&A. It’s worth it. 

In fact, I was a View from Nowhere follower during most of the time I was the editor. I didn’t advocate it so much as I was simply passive about its use. But as I and the staff began blogging and as we all became more comfortable casting off the institutional voice and speaking like humans, my mind began to change. Toward the end of my time, I began arguing – unsuccessfully – to put editorials on the front page.

Before I was the editor of the News & Record, I was the editor of the editorial pages. We wrote editorials every day, taking positions that, most of the time, were progressive. Before I was appointed editor, the publisher and I had a brief conversation about the perception of our editorial position affecting our news coverage. He said something like this: “Be tough, be fair and you’ll be fine.”

And I don’t remember any reader raising the issue about my background.