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In Defense of Dean Lemann

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In her excellent summary of the various debates swirling around Nicholas Lemann’s recent New Yorker piece, “What Lemann Didn’t Discuss in His New Yorker Piece,” Rebecca MacKinnon asks:

One final question in the spirit of devil’s advocacy: Is the fact that Lemann’s latest article avoided mentioning his ongoing argument with Hewitt an exemplary demonstration of the author’s own objectivity in handling his subject matter? Or has he demonstrated a disappointing lack of transparency regarding his motivations for writing this particular article in this particular way? Don’t be shy. Hit the comments section and give your views… Perhaps Mr. Lemann might accept an invitation to respond?

Others have noted this, and I think the answer is very straightforward.  Dean Lemann doesn’t want to personalize the debate, and he’s right not to.  It isn’t about his personal views or my personal views, but about what can objectively be said about MSM objectivity.  Dean Lemann believes in the ideal and is trying to resurrect it.  I believe the ideal never existed, but that even its best days are far behind us, and that the idea of MSM objectivity today is preposterous.  But that dispute isn’t about personalities, or left-right divides.

MacKinnon also notes that Lemann’s profile of me from last year which is a companion of sorts to his latest essay isn’t available online.  I have a PDF of it, which I’ll try and figure out how to make available here.  Meanwhile, here’s Jeff Jarvis’ most recent take, and my Weekly Standard piece, “The Media’s Ancien Regime,” and Jay Rosen’s contribution to the conversation.

Update: Here’s a link to the pdf of Lemann’s profile of me.


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