As an American network TV news producer I used to sit and watch my senior editors grow giddy with the prospect of a week like the one we’ve just had – it was any news editor’s dream. Visions of marriage equality and threats of war from North Korea danced like muses in the glow of millions of television sets. The stories were just waiting to be told.
While Kim Jong-un’s poker game on the Korean peninsula is the flavour of the day, I’ve been left to marinate on gay marriage at the US Supreme Court for nearly a week – and I have to come clean.
Surprisingly, I am glad to have dodged the big marriage debate, journalistically speaking. Because I don’t work with the networks anymore, I don’t have to feed the news machine, or cover the nauseating tit-for-tattery of the story. On the gay marriage issue, I always had a crippling fear: that I would not be able to hide my pro-marriage equality bias. And if such were the case, I wasn’t a real journalist.
It was clear watching the Supreme Court coverage on America’s big three broadcasters that presenters and correspondents had already chosen their side. And, given the groundswell of support for marriage equality, it wasn’t hard to see why. Ratings aside, it seems that most of these people weren’t willing to let objectivity get in the way of basic human equality.
So here’s my conundrum: if you take a side as a journalist, do you do it at the expense of integrity?
When I was a bright-eyed journalism student a dear professor once told me that I had to decide who I was everyday. She reminded me that situational ethics put us in funny spots. Sometimes the decisions are easy. Sometimes you truly have to decide who you want to be and it might not be the person you thought you were two days before. In the past week I think many had a moment – be they politicians, pundits or dyed-in-the-wool journos.
And who’s left to argue with you when history is on your side? Maybe you should ask the religious pundit who’s now suggesting that our marriage-equality debate is so amoral that it has driven North Korea to the brink of war with us.
Well, I think there is a special place for him… somewhere.
Tristan McAllister is Monocle’s transport editor.