Just the Facts?

Partisanship and the Press

The current era of partisan news and name-calling is enough to make you wonder what happened to good old-fashioned objective reporting. But in this hour, BackStory asks: Where did the idea of media objectivity come from in the first place? Historian Marcus Daniel explains that the bitter rhetoric of editors in the 1790s played a key role in the birth of our democracy. Matthew Goodman tells the story of an elaborate hoax involving “lunar man-bats” in the early days of the penny press. And Michael Kinsley, founder of the online journal Slate, argues that opinion journalism can be more informative than so-called “objective” news.


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Further Reading

All Centuries
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting report on the history of objectivity in American journalism (PDF)
  • A primer on the history of journalism ethics
  • Essays on the print culture of American women
  • Three centuries of broadsides and printed ephemera
18th Century
19th Century
20th Century & Beyond