Have heart.

I watched a lot of movies while I was on vacation with my parents. The full list is this: Iron Man, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Last Chance Harvey, and Good night, and good luck. Iron Man is a great movie, BB was also good, but long and troubling, Harvey was mostly adorable, but what I really want to talk about is GN,AGL.

Good night, and good luck. is a movie about Edward R. Murrow and his conflicts with Junior Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. The history lesson is short: McCarthy founded the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and unconstitutionally tried people for Communist ties. Murrow, perceiving the illegality and immorality of the Senator's actions, did a series of specials covering the hearings on his show, See It Now. The Senator responded by attacking Murrow without refuting any of Murrow's allegations. An investigation into McCarthy and his actions occurred shortly thereafter.

The message I took away from this concerned a topic that is very prevalent today: what is good journalism? Part of this question revolves around the idea of the "purpose" of journalism. A friend ponders it here, and Andrew Sullivan often does it here. For my own part, I view the purpose of journalism as I view many things, as a spectrum, no pun intended.

On one end is objective journalism: news delivered with as little bias as possible and as accurately as possible. Most news sources attempt to deliver this type of news. The idea is that the news should be one step removed from the event, and that the reporter is a collator, or a curator, if you will. In this case, a reporter is analogous to a mapmaker - the best map is the land itself, but that doesn't fit in your pocket, on your doorstep, on your television, in your browser, so a map is made, a news story written.

On the other end is subjective journalism. I don't have a ready definition for this, so I'll give examples. Socialist newsletters are subjective journalism. Hannity is subjective journalism. Andrew Sullivan is subjective journalism. Perhaps a good word for all this is simply, Editorial. It's the word used in GN,AGL by Murrow to describe his show and his department at CBS.

Is one of these "better" than the other? Arguably, yes. If I want to find out what happened in Ghana today, I would turn to objective news. If I wanted to know how well the American economy is doing, I would turn to objective news. But say I want to know what the American far right thinks about the War on Terror: I would turn to WaPo editorials.

The assumption in answering affirmatively to that question is that news without bias, news written for as wide an audience as possible, is better news. News can still be accurate and biased. Look at John Stewart: the Daily Show is a nightly program that does a very good job of covering the daily news, but it does so with a leftist bias. MSNBC does much the same thing, albeit a lot less entertaining. Sean Hannity also does a daily program that covers the news, with a far right bias. I'm not sure entertaining is the right word, but there's my opinion showing. It's affirming. I don't hold the same beliefs, but I can sense that.

See It Now was an editorial program. The nature of the program was subjective. But it's segments on the McCarthy hearings were revolutionary. For really the first time, the media directly affected politics. Murrow's journalism was solid. It was deep. It was thought provoking. It was accurate. Was it objective? Possibly. His intentions were objective: he was trying to tell the truth.

And that's the rub. Truth is subjective. Watch the interviewhere. Both of these people believe fully that they are right. They are argueing their positions with a passion that cannot be denied. Yet the text agrees with only one of them.

Where does this put journalists? I think you can safely say that journalists should tell the news as accurately as possible. What they tell will be based on their bias. How they tell it should not be. Ideally, people should seek to consume news from multiple sources: good journalists will give out accurate news that they care about, and each news consumer will receive news from a variety of biases. That is a news world I think we could have.