Journalists and impartiality

AA040013

In light of ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos’ stupidity in giving $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, Let me tell you a story.

My late father-in-law, Judge William Gleason, was a prominent lawyer in the northern Illinois GOP stronghold of McHenry County. He was prominent in service organizations, the church, and other community endeavors, including Republican politics. When he was appointed a Magistrate, the entry level for judges (often called County Judges elsewhere), he terminated all memberships in the Elks and other organizations, stopped appearing in public places with a drink in his hand (e.g., the local country club), and ceased all community activities that, in any way, could be construed as partisan.

A college student at the time, I asked him why he did this and he said it was necessary to convey both the impression of impartiality as well as actually implementing impartiality as a judge in his community. When he passed away, he was a District Court Judge, which, in Illinois, is a partisan elected position; he hated the politics of it and the campaigning, but to remain a judge he had to go through it. His decisions remained impartial.

Journalists should adopt a similar standard. That would mean the following:

  • No voter registration with any political party.
  • Consider not voting at all.
  • No donations of any kind to anybody or anything.
  • No advising any political candidate, party or organization for any reason.
  • Be completely honest about your resume.
  • Pay for your own coffee and booze.

Former journalist Richard J. Schneider writes the Vic Bengston mystery novel series from Colorado.