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June 15, 2009

Huffington: Balance but not at the expense of truth

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/huffington_balance_but_not_at_the_expense_of_truth_20090615/

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I was in Las Vegas last summer when the Los Angeles Press Club named The God Blog the best single-author blog in L.A, and I had planned to skip the banquet again last night to play in the World Series of Poker. It’s a good thing I made a last-minute schedule-change: I won two awards in the under 100,000 circulation category, including Journalist of the Year.

Among the LA Press Club honorees were a colleague of mine from the Daily News, City Hall dean Rick Orlov, who certainly deserved the Joseph Quinn Lifetime Achievement Award, and Arianna Huffington, who was introduced by “Religulous” major domo Bill Maher. Both Huffington and Maher made great remarks; both were serious, though Maher was satirical. First his comments during an introduction that was part stand-up and part self-promotion, which sounds about spot on:

“Osama bin Laden once said that his goal was to bankrupt America. Sorry big guy but a Jew named Bernie Madoff beat you to it,” Maher quipped. “That was the worst pyramid scheme for the Jews since the pyramids. Thank God we have a president whose plan doesn’t involve Jesus coming back.”

I didn’t have a notepad, so I’m waiting for the audio to go up online, but that is roughly what Maher said. Huffington, however, I heard with crystal clarity, primarily because she spoke such Truth to reporting.

“Balance is great,” she said, while discussing the future of journalism. “Except when it comes at the expense of the truth.”

Huffington gave the example of a TV anchor who interviews both Al Gore and Sen. James Inhofe on the topic of global warming, never challenging either with the facts or the evidence but simply playing one quote off the other. She just as easily could have mentioned coverage about whether evolution should be taught in school, gays should be allowed to marry or any other religious hot-button.

On controversial topics, many reporters and news organizations pretend there are only two sides to a story, and that those two sides are best represented by, often times, the most polar of two opinions. In fact, the reality lies somewhere in between. The trouble is that identifying the soft-spoken voice of truth—whether it is Truth or simply truth—takes a lot more energy and effort, and a great deal more insight. It often requires an observer hip to the religious scene. And these days the ranks of religion reporters are fading fast.

After the jump, links to the four stories I submitted for Journalist of the Year. The piece titled “The professor anti-Semites love” was probably the clincher; it also was named Best News Feature:

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