J500 Media and the Environment

Advocacy is Everywhere by christinewerem
July 9, 2009, 8:43 am
Filed under: J840 Week 4 | Tags: , ,

As much as I hate to admit it, advocacy journalism is everywhere. Articles that appear on the front page of major newspapers like the NYTimes or CNN.com have the potential to be advocacy journalism and waver on the advocacy tightrope definition test. The wonderful world of Wikipedia defines advocacy journalism as, “a genre of journalism that intentionally and transparently adopts a non-objective viewpoint, usually for some social or political reason.” True advocacy journalism shows only one side for the majority of the story but does acknowledge the opposition side too.

Articles from the NYTimes, CNN.com or Foxnews.com follows this definition. The NYTimes offers more left winged stories than right winged but still includes a few right winged stories – but only in a negative sense. Take the NTimes’ home page on Thursday July 9th (click image to view larger image) – “Bomb Attacks in Iraq Kill at least 41”, “Democrats Say C.I.A. Deceived Congress for Years”, “Afghan Truck Blast Kills 16 Children.” The NYTimes’ home page does promote sustainable topics like the “Green Inc.: When Oil Mixes With Dictatorship” article or the “Poorer nations Reject a Target on Emission Cut” article. So yes, the NYTimes does follow part of the advocacy definition but it is not obvious if all newspaper outlets intentionally adopt a non-objective stance.NY Times July 8, 2009 home pageNY Times July 8, 2009 home page

Besides the topic choices from the chosen newspaper outlets listed above, article contents also gives the majority of one opinion with a hint of the opposition’s opinion. A Foxnews.com story that appeared above the fold on July 9th entitled, “Panetta Testified CIA Misled Congress, Dems Say” is a similar title to the NYTimes’ CIA story but with a different lead. A blatant quote on this article is an obvious hit towards the Democratic side and the source was not named, “”They wanted (Panetta) to throw (the Bush CIA) under the bus,” said a House close source who monitors intelligence matters.”

While the above examples are politically motivated towards advocacy journalism, each topic was chosen for a reason and the titles and content were written intentionally but not for obvious transparent reasons.

Does everyone else think its cut and dry or are their acceptions?

Christine W.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Christine,

I enjoyed your post and I couldn’t agree more. I took a very similar angle in my own blog.

Advocacy journalism litters the news media landscape. Political and social examples, as stated in your definition from Wikpedia, are the norm. Often these examples come with little or no transparency on their respective bias. The loser is the casual news observer that sporadically watches, listens, or reads from these media sources. The casual observer is being mislead because they are getting one side of the story on key political or social events. Sensationalism skews the arguement and hides the truth.

Alternatively, I believe advocacy journalism serves a positive role for the casual observer. This occurs when an issue is brought to light, such as homelessness, that would have otherwise been silent.


When advocacy journalism provides a voice to the voiceless it is at its best. When advocacy journalism changes public policy or opinion without a debate it is at its worst.

Do you think advocacy journalism has some postivie merits?

Jason Merckling

Comment by jasonmer

Hi Jason,

Thanks for your reply. I definitely believe advocacy journalism has its strong points like giving a voice to the voiceless like you said. Watching or reading an advocacy journalism piece is inspiring like the Lisa Ling’s homeless piece we watched in class.

I don’t necessarily agree that advocacy journalism is bad if it changes policy without a debate because sometimes there are obvious fouls within society that need to be changed. But of course that is not all the time.

Christine W.

Comment by christinewerem

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