Washington Post ombud Patrick Pexton (2/22/13) took up the question in a recent column, “Is the Post Pro-Gay?” Or as a conservative reader put it: “Is there no room in the Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?”
Pexton says that he has trouble understanding this point of view:
Many Americans feel that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry diminishes the value of their heterosexual marriages. I don’t understand this. The lesbian couple down the street raising two kids or the two men across the hall in your condominium–how do those unions take anything away from the sanctity, fidelity or joy you take in your heterosexual marriage?
Still, he concludes by agreeing with the conservative reader. Without citing any examples of what he considers to be unfair treatment of opponents of marriage equality, Pexton writes: “The Post should do a better job of understanding and conveying to readers, with detachment and objectivity, the beliefs and the fears of social conservatives.”
It’s an interesting example of the media’s peculiar use of the word “objectivity.” There is, as Pexton acknowledges, no objective evidence that allowing two people of the same gender to marry will harm mixed-gender marriages. So you might think objective reporting would treat that assertion as a dubious claim. But to be “objective” in the media sense means to treat the idea that marriage equality is a threat to heterosexual’s marriages as a perfectly valid position–no evidence necessary.
I have been thinking lately that what we need is not an objective press but an empirical one–one that strives to report the world as it really is, and tries to base its reporting on demonstrable facts. On so many issues–from climate to economics to foreign policy–that would be a much different media from the one we have now.