42 years later, two Boston Globe stalwarts are still debating objectivity

Cooling towers at Three Mile Island. Photo information unclear.

New York Times media columnist Ben Smith has a fun piece today on two retired Boston Globe stalwarts, Tom Palmer and Alan Berger.

In 1979, when Berger was writing media criticism for The Real Paper (a competitor to The Boston Phoenix), he called out Palmer for what he regarded as overweening objectivity following a dangerous accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. Berger called Palmer “thoughtful, honest, and entirely conventional” for failing to emphasize the dangers of nuclear power.

Palmer told Smith: “Journalists are simply not smart enough and educated enough to change the world. They should damn well just inform the public to the best of their abilities and let the public decide.”

I know Berger only by reputation, but I’ve known Palmer for years. He spoke to my graduate ethics class in February 2020 about his critique of liberal media bias, and he may have been my last in-person guest speaker before the pandemic.

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