NBC: Twitter is revealing that journalists are mostly left-wing

Dylan Byers has a piece for NBC News which argues that Twitter is a “minefield” for journalists. Why? Because it often unintentionally reveals that so many of them are left-wing. Byers kicks off the piece with a look at a recent tweet from Politico Editor-in-chief John Harris. I wrote about this story last week. In case you missed it, Harris tweeted this:

Harris later claimed he was just reacting to the NBC News headline, not suggesting that President Trump was a white nationalist. But Byers reports this created some confusion among his staff:

Some current and former Politico staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they they could speak freely about their employer expressed confusion and disappointment about Harris’ tweet.

It also served as a reminder of the perils journalists face on Twitter, where there is a temptation to stray from reporting and share jokes and opinions.

The “perils” in this case have to do with journalists accidentally revealing that they’re indistinguishable from the left-wing resistance.  Jim VandeHei who co-founded Politico and is now CEO of Axios suggested recently that Twitter has a habit of revealing that many journalists lean hard left. He also had some suggestions about how to avoid this:

“News organizations should ban their reporters from doing anything on social media — especially Twitter — beyond sharing stories,” VandeHei said in remarks to students at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh over the weekend. “Snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics.”

VandeHei said that Axios’ social media policy “prohibits the sharing of political views or derogatory snark online: ‘Don’t say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t publish under your byline or say on TV.'”

This sounds good at first blush but the more you think about it the less sense it makes. If the goal is to win over skeptics then hiding your bias behind a vow of silence is only going to lead to more suspicion, i.e. that you’re hiding your views to avoid revealing you lean left. Isn’t it actually better for people to know whether the author of the story they are reading has a bias to start with? A NY Times television critic argued that hiding bias is not a great way to address the problem:

Liberals pretending to be neutral arbiters doesn’t work. We’ve tried that for the last 50 years and it only fools other liberals who want to believe reality has a left-wing bias. The only solution to bias is to admit it and embrace it honestly or try to correct for it in some other way, probably by hiring a few people with different opinions. It’s fine to have a site with a conservative or progressive take on the news. It’s not fine to have an overwhelmingly progressive take on the news day after day and pretend you’re just explaining the news.