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Editor’s Note | There Aren’t Two Equal Sides To Every Story

During my first semester as a journalism student at the University of Southern Mississippi School of Mass Communications and Journalism in Hattiesburg back in the fall of 2010, my professor, Dr. Cheryl Jenkins, had us watch “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

That 2005 film retells the story of legendary CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow’s fearless truth-telling that exposed the horrors of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare-era witch trials that masqueraded as legitimate Senate inquiries. One scene proved instrumental in developing my journalistic ethos.

Faced with a network executive accusing him of bias and a lack of objectivity for his reporting on McCarthy’s anticommunist crusade, the on-screen Murrow (portrayed by David Strathaim) responds succinctly: “I’ve searched my conscience, and I can’t for the life of me find any justification for this, and I simply cannot accept that there are, on every story, two equal and logical sides to an argument.”

These debates continue in newsrooms and among journalists across the country as many from the old guard of news leadership continue to insist on creating a façade of objectivity by presenting every story through the prism of “both sides.” It often results in constructions like this: “Candidate A says X, but Candidate B said Y”—without making it clear to readers what the truth is.

This past week, as NPR came under attack for an alleged culture of “wokeness” (whatever that means), Alicia Montgomery, a Black woman who previously worked as an NPR editor and producer, wrote an article in SLATE recounting what she described as the organization’s real problems. She pointed to the behind-the-scenes conversations she witnessed in 2016 as NPR, like other news organizations across the country, was grappling with how to cover the ascendent Donald Trump.

“For most of 2016, many NPR journalists warned newsroom leadership that we weren’t taking Trump and the possibility of his winning seriously enough,” Montgomery wrote in the April 16 article. “But top editors dismissed the chance of a Trump win repeatedly, declaring that Americans would be revolted by this or that outrageous thing he’d said or done.

“I remember one editorial meeting where

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