Interview with The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson



On Wednesday afternoon, I attended some panel discussions hosted by the Premio Gabriel García Márquez de Periodismo, a yearly festival that celebrates Spanish-language journalism. The list of panelists included Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker, whose work I started following after I read his biography of Che Guevara. He’s a seasoned journalist who has covered Latin American politics for decades, writing profiles of people like Fidel Castro, Augusto Pinochet, the King of Spain, and Gabo himself. He’s also covered conflicts around the world in Africa and the Middle East, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given his experience in the region, I wanted to get his take on US decision to strike ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He was in a bit of a rush, but was kind enough to give me a short interview after the panel discussion. Here’s what he said: Continue reading


“Egypt’s al-Jazeera trial inspired by America’s global war on journalism”

By Rozina Ali in the The Guardian:

Over the past decade, the US not only detained but tortured al-Jazeera journalists under counterterrorism policies. Now, as its War on Terror diffuses into support for an increasing number of local – and secret – wars on terrorism across the globe, the tactic of imprisoning journalists seems to be catching on.

Ten years ago, the United States also justified its detention of al-Jazeera journalists by claiming a “national security threat”. These arrests could not be cloaked as mere collateral damage in a messy war. The US, then as Egypt does now, made leaping connections between the news network and militants, and specifically targeted those whose coverage did not serve the military’s objectives.

On journalism, NYT’s Bill Keller vs Glenn Greenwald

An exchange between The New York Times’s former editor, now op-ed columnist Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald entitled, “Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of Journalism?

Here is the section where Greenwald addresses questions about his new media outlet:

As for the new venture we’re building with Pierre Omidyar: we’re still developing what it will look like, how it will be structured and the like, so my ability to answer some of your questions is limited. But I can address a few of the questions you raise.

We absolutely believe that strong, experienced editors are vital to good journalism, and intend to have plenty of those. Editors are needed to ensure the highest level of factual accuracy, to verify key claims, and to help journalists make choices that avoid harm to innocents.

But they are not needed to impose obsolete stylistic rules, or to snuff out the unique voice and passion of the journalists, or to bar any sort of declarative statements when high-level officials prevaricate, or to mandate government-requested euphemisms in lieu of factually clear terms, or to vest official statements or official demands for suppression with superior status. In sum, editors should be there to empower and enable strong, highly factual, aggressive adversarial journalism, not to serve as roadblocks to neuter or suppress the journalism.

We intend to treat claims from the most powerful factions with skepticism, not reverence. Official assertions are our stating point to investigate (“Official A said X, Y and Z today: now let’s see if that’s true”), not the gospel around which we build our narratives (“X, Y and Z, official A says”)


Objectivity vs Transparency in Journalism

Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU, has written a post on PressThink explaining to types of valid journalism. One is based on objectivity (or ‘viewlessness’), or what he calls “Politics: none“. He describes it as the following:

It is not the natural, inevitable or “right” way to do journalism, but rather a form of persuasion in which journalists try to get us to accept their account of the way things are by foreswearing any political commitment, avoiding overt displays of opinion, and eluding strong conclusions via quotation or summary of competing arguments.

Of course they also try to persuade us by pointing to irrefutable facts, uncovering new information, and being accurate, truthful and fair.

That latter form, which he ascribes specifically to Glenn Greenwald (who clearly has opinions about the NSA programs he has reported on – which is why he was sought out by Snowden) and the Guardian, is that of transparency, or Politics: some.“:

 It is not the natural or inevitable way to do journalism, but a form of persuasion in which journalists try to get us to accept their account by being up front about their commitments, grounding their freely-expressed opinions in fact, and arriving at conclusions through the sound conduct of public argument.

It seems to me that the latter form is the superior one, though Rosen admits that both can be valid and effective. For one, it seems obvious that it is impossible for a journalist to be meaningfully “objective” and be “viewless” with no opinion on political issues. Clearly, all journalists do, so it strikes me as somewhat dishonest to act as if it is not the case. Your politics will inevitably effect your journalism, and if you never disclose them, it is impossible to know how  they are affected.

This is why transparency is so important in this field. Transparent journalists are much easier to trust, even those whose politics I don’t agree with. There are no questions of a hidden agenda, because they are up front with their agenda and explain why – presumably with facts – they believe it’s an agenda worth supporting. It just seems more honest. This is why, should I ever be lucky enough to work in the field, I will strive for transparency, not objectivity.