Woke journalism is not what journalism is supposed to be.
Is the news media is partisan to the left or not?
I my experience, I find the political leaning towards the left amongst journalists to be real.1
Unlike many of my peers, however, I actually don’t mind this general leaning towards the left side of the political spectrum.
Also, I find it reassuring to know that journalists are relentlessly working to expose any wrongdoings amongst those that have worked the system considerably better than the most of us. Now, power and influence doesn’t make anyone evil by default, but strength amplifies the negative effects of harmful behavior. With limited resources, it makes sense to prioritise accordingly.
And I say this as someone who is leaning towards the right personally.2
While I wouldn’t credit the left with being better storytellers, they often do have better stories to tell.
So, I have no problem with this classical leaning to the left amongst journalists.
But there are, of course, different varieties of left-leaning political agendas. From a news media perspective, one particularly hazardous variety is where journalism abandon stories about individuals on behalf of sweeping generalisations based on demographic affinity.
I’m talking about woke journalism.
“With an increase in social consciousness and a rise in the millennial culture of being ‘woke’, there has come an increase demand of political correctness especially in journalism. On one hand lies the decency of a report that gives journalists an authority to phrase their stories in an ethical way using political correctness. On the other hand, it does hinder honesty or true freedom of speech.”Source: Political correctness: An obstacle for media?
When news stories are filtered through ethnicity, group beliefs, sexual orientation, or historical dynamics, we’re left with a journalism where it’s not only acceptable, but often mandatory, to selectively disregard objectivity on behalf of social justice.
Yes, supporters of woke culture and woke capitalism will be in favor of this type of reporting. But there’s reason to believe that the majority of news consumers prefer to see less identity politics in the newsroom.
“On social media, the country seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resentful. Team Resentment is manned—pun very much intended—by people who are predominantly old and almost exclusively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and predominantly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their dutiful part). These teams are roughly equal in number, and they disagree most vehemently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as political correctness.Source: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture
Reality is nothing like this. As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest—including a general aversion to PC culture.”
Imagine being a medic arriving at a scene of a massive accident with lots of wounded people all around you. Triage, the practice of medical priority, means that you won’t tend to those who are screaming the loudest first; they have enough energy and life spark to shout and make noise. If saving lives is the medic’s priority, he or she should prioritise those who can’t even make noise to save themselves.
If the medic, however well-intentioned or righteous, takes it upon him- or herself to save people based on group identity, the whole medical system will quickly start to break down from within.
In the news media space, this is where alt-left journalism becomes dangerous.
If we allow the news media to become platform amplifiers instead of platform providers, we simultaneously pave the way for censorship, cancel culture, propaganda, and damaging identity politics on both the far left and the far right of the spectrum.
“We’ve been here before — on college campuses in the late 1960s, when student protesters occupied buildings, making demands for curricular and other changes, and administrators and prominent faculty members gave in across the board. The students at Columbia and Cornell were leading a revolution from the left, and the authorities who surrendered to them were liberals. The liberals folded because they were terrified of bad publicity, but also because they felt shamed by the moral purity, clarity, passion, and certainty of the young rebels. In all those respects, our newsroom revolutions are following the same script.”Source: The woke revolution in American journalism has begun
It’s not a journalist’s job to protect and promote those who already have a voice and a platform. But, woke journalism will prefer to empower already strong voices based on an agenda of identity politics.
It’s my firm belief that we need a journalism of the classical left where the individual without a voice is given the opportunity to speak truth to power. We need objective and brave reporting of uncomfortable realities in the face of severe repercussions from organised and institutionalised agendas — no matter if they stem from commercial propaganda or moral gospel.
In short: It makes sense for journalism to be leaning towards the left. We just need that left to be less woke.
- However, this only seems to be true when you regard the news media as a macro phenomenon; as soon as you move in a little closer, there’s no telling what you might find. In my experience, news coverage is not only skewed by ideology, but also by culture, formats, and profit demands. As with so many other media and communications phenomenons, any given story is mostly situational.
- I’d say that I belong to a more classical moderate and free-market type right; not the moral conservative Christian type found in many Western democracies today.