My Bias on Equality

Where I'm Coming From

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Jonathon Feit Jonathon Feit
If I were without opinions, you wouldn't be reading this. Once, amid a lecture on the prevalence of bias in the news -- and my contention that it is, in fact, essential -- my Boston University students protested that their journalism instructors had professed (as professors will) the importance of objectivity in our trade.

I probably called those professors "morons for the modern age" (or if not, I certainly thought it) and inquired after the careers of, say, Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartimomo, Bill O'Reilly, Erin Burnett, Keith Olberman, William Safire, and of course, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (whose affiliation may as well just be "America").

Indeed, just this past spring that Anderson Cooper interviewed Walter Cronkite at a University of Judaism lecture series in Los Angeles. The event was positioned as a symbolic "passing of the torch" between generations of newscasters. (Someone get Cooper's publicist on the phone, stat!) Now, I can assure you that Walter Cronkite did not earn his status as the most trusted talking head in America because he was unbiased. No, it's because he was trustworthy. He was human -- emotional when it was appropriate, and steadfast likewise -- and what you saw is what you got. All his news was fit to print.

In that spirit, you're likely wondering (or you will, or you already have) whether what I scrawl in this space each week will be worth your time to read.

The answer to that question of course remains to be seen, as I harbor no delusions of importance. I do know, however, that before purporting that you should care even slightly about my words, I have to earn your attention. To do so, you need to know who I am, where I come from, what baggage I carry (and whether it fits in the overhead bin).

So, if you'll pardon the personal nature of this first post (in the future, I'll avoid the first-person to the extent possible), it is with only the best journalistic intentions that I set the record straight about my angles.
  1. I am a young, white centrist Democrat, who believes in socially and fiscally responsible government. Born and raised in Los Angeles, I finished graduate school in Boston, served my time in New York, and now that I'm back in my hometown, you wouldn't believe how much I'm pining not only for hustle, but bustle too.

  2. I was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome at age 19, and launched my company at 21. Thankfully, I don't curse uncontrollably ("coprolalia") or flail about, but I am twitchy in the face and eyes. I can't think of anyone else in the media or marketing industries who has lately come out of our unique kind of closet to educate or advocate for the rights of the disabled. Equal access is an ideal that can and should be achieved.

    At the same time, as a bootstrapping business owner, I realize that flinging open the floodgates of opportunity can pose real financial hardships. For instance, it might be exceedingly difficult to integrate Braille machines into a newsroom. Then again, it might not be -- but without looking into the possibility, we're simply alienating potential talent. This is why the "diversity" conversation must progress beyond race.

  3. I joined the Army on Sept. 11, but didn't finish Basic Training. (See point #2.)

  4. Some of my activist colleagues believe in baby steps toward greater goods. I don't (and sound minds can disagree). I think we should be striving for the ultimate goals, whether we reach them or just make a serious dent. As the motivational speaker Les Brown ( aptly advised, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

  5. A dear friend from around the industry experienced a tragedy that drove home for me the urgency of GLBT and marriage equality. Amid a post-Sept. 11 immigration snafu, his partner found himself staring down a deportation order -- or else imprisonment. So they expatriated together, and we lost some very good neighbors. The shocking typicality of this story is among the chief motivators behind the push for federal recognition of equal marriage rights.

    We're talking about families here, lovers who had been together for years. Homophobia aside, is anyone really so brash and heartless to suggest that tearing families apart is a good thing? (If so, step out of the shadows so you can be publicly shamed.)

My next post will focus on some of the ways that diversity touches on business from a consumer psychology point of view. So many ruminations on diversity in the workplace focus on the employer-employee relationship, or advertising and marketing outreach. Less discussion has looked into the buying habits of diverse communities -- that is, how equal outreach makes consumers feel.

In the meantime, thank you for taking the time to recognize the importance -- as Abigail Posner expounded in a recent editorial -- of mission in our business [paid access]. I look forward to your feedback.
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