Much has been said about The Shift, ever since it was founded. While we’re proud to have received plenty of recognition as well as a number of international awards for our work, not all that is said about us is good.
“They’re just another PN mouthpiece…”, “They’re out to take down the mainstream media…”, “They’ve got an agenda…” and the evergreen “They’re as biased as all the others…”.
At the heart of most of the criticism aimed at The Shift is the conflation of the idea of independence (not accepting any form of government or political party funding as shown in our financial statements) with that of objectivity or neutrality.
Over the last century, objectivity became the gold standard for reporting the news. Yet the word “objectivity” was not applied to the newsgathering process but to journalists themselves.
Journalists began to adopt the safe tone designed by the Associated Press to appear more neutral, then many began to pursue sources from “both sides” of an issue, no matter how valid or how absurd. One such example is all the tit-for-tat articles that appeared between the four constitutional experts and Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis in connection with his ill-conceived proposal to alter Malta’s Constitution.
This obsession with appearing objective or neutral has now had the opposite effect, it has hindered the adequate coverage of the truth, giving context and equal space to both lies and facts.
The Shift was born out of Malta’s darkest of moments – the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – so our “agenda” should be quite clear by now. We are proud of it. The Shift is dedicated to investigative journalism in pursuit of the truth because we believe in the public’s right to know.
If Owen Bonnici was wrong to remove the placards and flowers placed at the protest memorial dedicated to Caruana Galizia, we will clearly say it is a breach of human rights, not report his excuses of ‘keeping the peace’ while the other arm of government is the source whipping up hate. We looked at that source and we documented it too.
There’s right and wrong. And to the best of our ability we will dig to get to that to present you with facts, not statements. That’s the main reason why we do not carry press releases by political parties. We check the facts. We verify the information. And then we tell you what we’ve discovered.
Expecting journalists to be constantly and utterly objective or neutral all the time is as unrealistic as it is exhausting. Even the most boring, neutrally voiced report is implicitly biased in the points it has chosen to cover, the sources it has chosen to consult or the questions it has asked.
We’re just honest in telling you that. We don’t hide behind false notions to justify a lack of effort in getting to the truth to prioritise clickbait.
We’re not about ‘let’s get there first’ but about getting it right. We’re the only community-funded newsroom in the country, and we answer to you, not the government or any political party. We do need your support to remain true to our mission.
So you won’t find equal space given to science deniers or to those who dehumanised Daphne Caruana Galizia, and neither will you find space dedicated to transcribing the stock reply statements of government officials.
If that makes us “biased”, then we’re cool with that.