Journalists do not exist to serve one party’s political interests. The public are the journalists’ clientele.
It is the public that reads newspapers and magazines, listens to radio or watches television. They are depending on journalists to tell the truth as they see it and offer an honest opinion as to what it means. To suppressing information for the sake of a political agenda is to betray the trust of the public and corrupt their own profession.
Some journalists do jump on the bandwagon of particular candidates or political agendas, and end up filtering and spinning the news as a result.
Others in the media seem to think that a noble cause justifies withholding facts on the other side.
There has probably never been a more noble cause than wanting to spare the world the agonies of a world war with modern weapons. That is what The Times of London tried to do back in the 1930s.
The carnage of the First World War was a shock from which a whole generation never recovered. Millions of soldiers on both sides were killed. A whole continent was devastated and millions of civilians were starving amid the ruins. Surely it was a humane and noble desire to want to avoid a repetition of that.
So Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times of London, decided to filter the news, in the interest of peace. Rather than print news that could rekindle animosities among nations that had fought in WWI, Dawson filtered dispatches from his own foreign correspondents in Germany to remove negative reports of what the Nazis were doing.
Some of The Times’ correspondents complained at the deletions and rewritings, and some resigned in protest. They apparently understood that their role was to report the facts, not cater to some hope or agenda.
We now know that The Times’ efforts to promote peace had the opposite effect. It downplayed the dangers of Hitler, thus contributing to Britain’s belated awakening to those dangers and its vacillating responses – factors that emboldened Hitler to launch WWII.
It was not just that Dawson guessed wrong. He misunderstood a journalist’s role and the betrayal involved when he went beyond that role, even for a noble cause.