Objectivity has been the widespread practice of the American press since the late 1800s. The American Society of Newspaper Editors finally canonized it in 1923, decreeing that news reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind. From there the importance of objectivity grew until it was irrevocably applied to all reporters and later entire publications. All were expected to give both sides of the story on everything from a school board meeting to an international disaster.
Without equal coverage, the press failed in its primary goal: to present the American people with the information and motivation to actively participate in the ever-changing world around them. Citizens needed to make their own decisions, and the press was there to make sure they had all the right information to do it.
But apparently the press, or at least the New York Times, has a new motto: objectivity to the wind. Print what you think sounds better. At least that was its decision on the recent opinion pieces by presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain.
Obama wrote an op-ed piece entitled, My Plan for Iraq, detailing his plans for troop withdrawal by Nov. 4. The New York Times ran the piece July 14.
But when McCain wrote a rebuttal discussing his views on the same situation and submitted it for publication, he was refused.
New York Times Opinion Page Editor David Shipley explained in an e-mail to the McCain campaign why he wouldnt accept the piece: The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans. It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obamas piece. It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory - with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senators Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.
While this type of back-and-forth between author and editor is standard for many publications before an op-ed piece is printed, the New York Times is doing more harm than good in not printing the piece.
If McCain really doesnt present any new ideas in all 879 words of his piece, then let his opposition use that as another nail in his coffin. What better way to highlight Obamas platform of change and hope than let McCain print a regurgitation of the same Republican war policy of the last two presidential terms? If voters are all so ready for change, let them see what theyre leaving behind, what they all say theyre sick of hearing. That will dig McCains grave better than his opposition ever could.
But in asking for specific timetables and figures, Shipley missed the essence of McCains argument. Hes not going to rely on predetermined timetables and dates. Hes going to keep victory as the goal, set a few checkpoints along the way and adapt his strategy based on whats happening on the ground in Iraq, not on what he thought was a good plan six months ago.
As we draw down in Iraq, McCains piece stated, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.
But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons.
Thats McCains plan. It may not be as concrete as Obamas, but its what hes working from. And the American people need to hear both alternatives to make an edcated decision. If he doesnt give any new ideas, then let McCain dig his own grave; dont let the New York Times dig it for him by printing one side of the story.
The New York Times has a right to print what they deem appropriate, but they also have an obligation to provide the American people the information they need to make an educated decision, especially on an issue as important as a presidential election.
This editorial represents the opinion of The Daily Universe editorial board. Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of BYU, its administration or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.