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Time waits for no Man…

March 21, 2009

The day after a flurry of deadlines, as I lie in bed with some time on my hands, there was one last thought on impartiality I wanted to commit to digital paper.

And appropriately enough, it’s about space and time.  

If you’ve seen our snazy little presentation you may have seen John Snow’s comments about impartiality.

But what I had to leave out (due to considerations of space and time) were his thoughts on the time in which journalists have to turn around stories now. 

Where once a correspondent would have had a few days to report on a conflict, to work out what was going on, and to use his or her judgement, now they have hours.

The very same tools that make communication easier and quicker, seem to  risk us giving up our most valuable tools of all – our intellects and judgement. 

We simply do not feel that we have the time and space to make judgement calls about stories. And so, perhaps by degrees, journalism has fallen back on balance as a way of dealing with speed. 

Because, if you simply state what one side says, and then the other side, you cannot be held liable as a journalist. You escape the dangers of defamation, you satisfy your bosses, and you do it quickly. 

But where is the pleasure of truly having understood and explained a story?

None of this is to say that impartiality isn’t useful or important. Impartiality is not the same as balance, although the two do get confused. 

And it’s not to say that journalists should be constantly peddling their opinions. 

Judgement is about looking with a clear head at both the facts on the ground and the bigger picture, and being able to see what’s going on. It’s not about RSS feeds and satellite links, and more more more faster faster faster. It’s a journalist with a pen and paper, and twenty minute to gather their thoughts. It’s sitting down on a Saturday morning with a well written, well researched newspaper, and a cup of coffee.

It’s time and space to think. 

And more often than not, it only comes along after your deadline has passed…

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