It is the criticism which the publication has received for such pointed, so called “biased” coverage that Dana chose to address in his lecture. In his talk, “The Myth of Fair and Balanced: A Defense of Biased Reporting,” Dana expounded upon the mania inherent in today’s news. He particularly focused on the blind obedience with which journalists “worship the grail of objectivity.” Some of his literary contemporaries “are so afraid of being crucified [by upper management],” he explained, “that they will play twister to hide their bias.” In deliberately disguising their opinion, their message often becomes more convoluted, giving way to a deep mistrust of the media by the people who are consuming it. “If the New York Times would just present itself as pro-war,” insisted Dana, “that would just be much more honest.”
Amidst a sea of this murky, supposedly more objective journalism, Dana argues that poignancy of opinion is much more honest and forthcoming than classic reporting. “I want to do stuff that’s biased.” For “bias,” maintains Dana, “does not mean unbalanced.” If anything. it sets the bar higher for Rolling Stones’ writers. They have to exercise extreme depth of analysis and reporting in writing their stories. In fact, confided Dana, his all-time favorite stories are those which deliberately framed extremely controversial issues in a manner which was both emotive and unabashedly honest.
Take Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, for example: What began as a two-part expose on the historical and cultural rise of fast food in the United States has since become a best-selling book – Fast Food Nation – and is in the process of being turned into a feature film. Generating the most mail of any article written by the magazine during the 1990s, Schlosser’s initial piece achieved such feats not by remaining neutral, but rather by taking a bold, radical stance. With a subtitle like “The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,” Schlosser knew the piece he was writing would be very alluring but at the same time potentially very volatile. Hence the exhaustive research. This was modern muckraking at its finest – if Rolling Stone was to feature such a controversial topic, its validity was never to be in question. Indeed, with an estimated 8-10 million readers per issue, Dana asserts that by printing pieces like Schlosser’s, the magazine yields considerable power. “We can become the seed pod for great things.”
Thus, while he acknowledged the importance of giving thought to both sides of an issue, ultimately “we’ll write what we believe,” insisted Dana. According to him there is no point in taking a hard stance on an issue which the staff finds morally incongruous – “It’s like when Rod Stewart made a disco record,” he quipped, “It just sounds wrong.”
Why should I buy it?