Linda Greenhouse Releases New Book on Her Experiences as a Journalist

In her latest book, Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between (Harvard University Press), Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law Linda  Greenhouse ’78 MSL trains an autobiographical lens on a moment of transition in American journalism. A decade ago, members of the mainstream press were grappling with whether labeling waterboarding as torture violated important norms of neutrality and objectivity. Now, major American newspapers regularly call the president of the United States a liar. The rules have changed: it’s no longer a simple matter of “balance” and “two sides to every story.”

In Just a Journalist, Greenhouse draws from the perspective of her own experience to address the question of whether the change is for the better, or if it will last. A decade ago, she faced criticism from her own newspaper and much of journalism’s leadership for a speech to a college alumnae group in which she criticized the Bush administration for, among other things, seeking to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo Bay—two years after the Supreme Court itself had ruled that the detainees could not be hidden away from the reach of federal judges who might hear their appeals.

Too often, she believes, journalists have pulled their punches, sacrificing truth as they perceive it before the false gods of fairness and objectivity. "The opposite of objectivity isn't partisanship, or needn't be," she writes. "Rather, it is judgment, the hard work of sorting out the false claims from the true and discarding or at least labeling the false."

Calling herself “an accidental activist,” Greenhouse raises questions about the role journalists can and should play as citizens, even as participants, in the world around them.