U.S. newspapers try to build a wall between the editorial pages and the news pages. They have different editors. In the twentieth century, it was a fundamental tenet of journalism. Not so much in the twenty-first century.
Now entire cable news channels report the world through obvious political prisms.
Now websites that serve as primary news sources for many Americans make no secret of their ideological leanings.
The reason is the same as always. New technology gives rise to new business models. The model now emerging is based on tracking online behavior and targeting ads to individuals.
Just-the-facts journalism is now a commodity, available instantly anywhere – news aggregators, blogs, Twitter. The ‘exclusive scoop’ doesn’t really exist in the same way anymore. How can you keep a story exclusive when people immediately start talking about it and sharing it all over the web?
To build customer loyalty today, there needs to be a person behind the news – a person, and an opinion. That’s what differentiates one news source from another; that’s the USP. As readers, consumers, we don’t get attached to facts, but to interpretations, to worldviews.
And yes, it’s crucial that we don’t allow ourselves to be consumed by fundamentalism and blind ideology. But openness and intellectual rigor are cultivated on a personal level, not through the format of the evening news.
Update: Some corroborating sentiments, from Nate Silver’s lecture at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism:
One of the things that distinguishes (quote-unquote) new journalism from some of its more traditional forms is that the reader is really going to be looking for analysis, meaning, context, argument. Unless you come across some really fresh and proprietary information – it’s great to get a scoop, but it won’t happen very often – it’s not enough to just present the information verbatim. One of the flaws of political journalism, in fact, is that a lot of what amounts to spin is given authority by being reported at face value.
Instead, the reader is going to be asking you to develop a hypothesis, weigh the evidence, and come to some conclusion about it — it’s really very much analogous to the scientific method.