What? Journalists taking on the role of activist? How could it be? But, yes, we have numerous examples of how reporters often doing so-called “investigative” reports stretch the definition of responsible journalism. One characteristic of activism is the belief that the end justifies the means. They believe so strongly in the moral justification of their cause that distortions of the facts, cherry-picking data, and outright falsehoods are justified. This is exactly what the intellectual guiding spirit of activism, Saul Alinsky, taught.
In this opinion piece by dairy journalist Mike Opperman published in Dairy Herd, the blending of activism and journalism is highlighted in the false and damaging story on the Dairy Management Institute (DMI) that first appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel and later in USA Today.
The sad thing is that the credibility that our reporters and media channels enjoyed in the days of Walter Cronkite have given way to a lack of trust. In many ways, today’s journalists have earned that bad reputation. Such generalizations, of course, are terribly unfair to the vast majority of responsible, careful and diligent reporters. But Opperman suggests one important reason why readers have become far more cautious and reports like the one about DMI only end up doing more damage to the reputation of the media.