I was talking with someone the other day about the dilemma of trying to do both journalism and advocacy. As noted in our tagline, we try to do our journalism straight up: objective, sourced, fact-based. And, we have an “editorial page” that is unapologetically progressive.
So, occasionally we run into a conflict between the two. We learn of something that is definitely news-worthy, but that could harm the progressive movement in some way. And we ask ourselves, Do we publish this, or sit on it?
In addition, when we have contacted persons working in politics to ask about a story we are working on, they sometimes act surprised and say “But that story could hurt [insert political entity here]. You wouldn’t want to do that, would you?”
As I say, I was discussing this with someone, and I said “I feel like telling these people, I’m a supporter, not a suck-up.” (They said they liked that expression, and were going to use it in the future. I asked for attribution. 😉)
One of the principles of the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists is “minimize harm.” That is meant to balance the other three principles: Seek truth and report it; Act independently; Be accountable and transparent.
I think Forward Kentucky has an additional consideration in both its reporting and its advocacy: consider the impact on the liberal/progressive movement for the long term.
Example: If a particular candidate or office-holder is doing something harmful, or questionable, or just stupid, reporting it is less about the damage to that candidate or office holder, and more about the damage they could be doing to the progressive movement in Kentucky.
Obviously, all of this becomes a long list of judgment calls. It’s what any journalist deals with every day, with the added complication of being a supporter of the liberal/progressive movement.
But, it’s a challenge we have to accept. We can’t be afraid to push for better actions and better outcomes from Democrats and like-minded folks. If all we ever do is push on the “other side” and boost “our side,” we are nothing more than a PR mouthpiece.
There are plenty of people out there doing the PR suck-up thing. Our goal is to use solid journalism and persuasive commentary to build the progressive voice in Kentucky. Even if that means calling out our fellow Dems and progressives.
We’re supporters, not suck-ups.
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