Bloomberg has set up a social media policy for employees, and it seems enlightened in some points, but inevitably it falls down the hole that Jay Rosen calls the ‘view from nowhere’ (after Thomas Nagle):
A. Yeah, since 2003…
Q. So what do you mean by it?
A. Three things. In pro journalism, American style, the View from Nowhere is a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer. Frequently it places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position “impartial.” Second, it’s a means of defense against a style of criticism that is fully anticipated: charges of bias originating in partisan politics and the two-party system. Third: it’s an attempt to secure a kind of universal legitimacy that is implicitly denied to those who stake out positions or betray a point of view. American journalists have almost a lust for the View from Nowhere because they think it has more authority than any other possible stance.
A. What authority there is in the position of viewlessness is unearned– like the snooty guy who, when challenged, says, “Madam, I have a PhD.” In journalism, real authority starts with reporting. Knowing your stuff, mastering your beat, being right on the facts, digging under the surface of things, calling around to find out what happened, verifying what you heard. “I’m there, you’re not, let me tell you about it.” Illuminating a murky situation because you understand it better than almost anyone. Doing the work! Having a track record, a reputation for reliability is part of it, too. But that comes from doing the work.
In fact, American journalism is dumber than most journalists, who often share my sense of absurdity about these practices. A major reason we have a practice less intelligent than its practitioners is the prestige that the View from Nowhere still claims in American newsrooms. You asked me why I am derisive toward it. That’s why.
So, Bloomberg expects us to believe that its employees have no political beliefs — or even if such a thing were possible, that would be a good thing — because it prohibits those employees from expressing those beliefs:
Ellie Behling, Bloomberg updates social media policy for reportersPersonal Conduct
- We should not use social networks to express political opinions or to advocate on behalf of a particular issue or agenda. Posts should never express bias based on race, sex, religion, or nationality.
- Reporters and editors cannot use social media to express opinions related in any way to their professional assignment or beat. We must be mindful readers depend on our reporting for observation and insight derived from fact – not from opinion or gossip.
- We must be transparent at all times about our occupations. Most social networks include a personal profile section, which is usually the best opportunity to provide background information.
- Do not join groups on social networks dedicated to a particular political opinion or cause.
- Do not engage in arguments with those critical of our work or critical of Bloomberg News.
- Do not disparage the work of others.
- Assume internal Bloomberg discussions and meetings are “off-the-record” unless otherwise stated.
This policy almost offensive, as when it implies that the only alternative to discussing facts is opinion or gossip. Making inferences or conclusions from facts is not gossip or opinion: it is grounded in logic, and the basis of science.
More importantly, we know today that human cognition is grounded in values: we cannot make decisions or take action without having a value system. We know that reporters are human, as well, and there is no way to step back from an issue if you are close enough to decide which facts are pertinent and relevant to a story. People always have political beliefs, and they are always based on value systems.
So, it’s all a pernicious lie. Bloomberg and other media companies that want to pretend that journalism and journalists can be value-free are free to do so. But we know it’s a pretense: one that implies we are uneducated fools, and will go along with the pretense.
This entire edifice could be called the ethics from nowhere: to pretend that journalism can be effective without affect, and to hold up a value-free view-from-nowhere as real and beneficial when it is impossible and dangerous.
And none of this has anything to do with social media: its about social discourse, a much greater domain.