All Points Between

Beyond advocacy to “holistic” journalism


| March-April 2011



Eric-Utne

2009 © Chris Lyons / lindgrensmith.com

The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. . . . We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate—and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  

We work together to get things done every damn day. . . . We know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the Promised Land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together. 

    —The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, October 30, 2010 

 

When I started Utne Reader in 1984, I trumpeted the alternative press as a hotbed of “passionate, quirky, and opinionated” journalism. The magazines and newsletters we covered and excerpted were produced by writers and editors who didn’t pretend to be objective, but were instead willing to honestly voice their biases up front and out loud.

The best of America’s independent media during that era resembled the day’s British newspapers, which were notoriously subjective not just on the opinion pages but also on the front page, where news broke and developed. Readers of the London Times or the Guardian or the Evening Standard knew which of their papers was liberal and which was conservative, which favored the Labour Party or the Tories. Those interested in all sides of the story (or a more objective take) developed strategies to mix, match, and filter the papers’ prejudices.

james l. (jim) moore
3/5/2011 11:56:24 PM

... integrative thinking, and earnest efforts toward building consensus. Since you and the publication you founded are dismissing such challenges, I'm requesting cancellation of my long-enjoyed subscription. James L. (Jim) Moore


james l. (jim) moore
3/5/2011 11:47:27 PM

Dear Eric Utne -- You did a good thing when you brought Utne Reader to life. You served a critical need then, in opening public awareness to the innovative thinking emanating from regional, special interest, and small-circulation publications. Your advocacy of intelligence and independent thinking was refreshing and stimulating. And then you failed us when you literally sold out. You now write, "A central tenet of this new philosophy is rising above the political fray to survey the totality of the situation -- to see the big picture." I could not agree more enthusiastically. But a few paragraphs later, you add: "This sort of reporting doesn't take special skills or an esoteric sensibility," and recent issues of the magazine are clear evidence of your belief. The "facts" are not the big picture; nor are aggregations of diverse opinions and interpretations. All the statistics and all the impressions and expressions -- even if you could, in fairness, assemble them all -- would not, could not, represent a big picture. A bigger picture moves beyond the temporal details, to point out patterns and trends, ideas and opportunities. What is critically needed now is not a reinforcement of the disparities and conflicts that leave us fearful and hopeless, but creative and integrative means of resolution. I believe that there is nothing more important to "this sort of reporting" than the "special skills" and "esoteric sensibility" of intelligent insight and discernment, integr