Thursday, November 25, 2004

Pentagon panel finds American message to the Muslims off-track

U.S. Fails to Explain Policies to Muslim World, Panel Says:
Here's a key line from the New York Times: "The report says that 'Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies,' adding that 'when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'"

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A Western view in the East

A former colleague makes a persuasive case for free speech. No thunder, just sweet reason. Here he's warming up:

Part of the "Miracle on the Han" has shown up in the enormous sums of money South Koreans now plow into education. If anything, people here could be considered overeducated, ranking as they do among the world's leaders in spending on learning. By this time, they should be able to think for themselves.

Freedom is the best defense

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

You may need to register to read this Garry Wills piece in the New York Times, but it's worth your time.
The Day the Enlightenment Went Out: "President Bush promised in 2000 that he would lead a humble country, be a uniter not a divider, that he would make conservatism compassionate. He did not need to make such false promises this time. He was re-elected precisely by being a divider, pitting the reddest aspects of the red states against the blue nearly half of the nation. "

Changing Technique May Extend Flu Vaccine

Making the flu vaccine go further

Should a journalist vote?

A student in Maryland asks whether news reporters (and presumably editors, photographers or other newsfolk) show bias when they vote.

While I do know of a few prominent journalists who deliberately don't vote -- the executive editor at my own paper, for instance -- I think they are going to needless extremes. For one thing, while it's possible for someone to find out which party primary I registered in, the chance of that fact influencing anyone is virtually zero. I think that what the ballot abstainers are attempting is a kind of mental purity. If I don't take sides at the polls, they are reasoning, then my choices as writer or editor will be more fair.

I see two, maybe three, flaws in that reasoning. One is that the journalist should be smart enough to separate necessary professional judgment from the choices that are our right and duty to make as citizens. And if we shun civic choice at the personal level we may even risk coming to believe that the choices are of no consequence -- that it doesn't matter who is elected or what kind of budget they adopt or whether taxes come from this or that realm of the economy. Public affairs, to such a believer, would become simply a game for our amusement.

Probably the greatest flaw in the reasoning of the ballot abstainer, though, has to do with the nature of bias. It is natural and, I believe, inevitable for people to exercse value judgment in all they do. If a journalist's goal is to be fair to the people and the ideas that he writes about, he'll have an easier time doing so if he recognizes what his own values are. If we are not aware of our values, we may never pose essential questions in our reporting, may miss significant images in our choice of photos, may use loaded language in our headlines -- and eventually will wonder why some of our readers or listeners say that we haven't been open to the view that seems perfectly obvious to them.

So Lauren, for your information, I vote at every election. I did miss one or two, as a younger man, and it made me feel like I'd betrayed someone.

What I don't do is put signs on my car or flags in my lapel. While I remain a journalist, it's nobody's business how I vote.