Integral Journalism -- A New Paradigm

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There have been acknowledged failures of the mainstream media leading up to the war in Iraq.

My Echo Chamber Hypothesis proposes that the "He Said/She Said" objectivity constraints of journalistic production broke down after there was a consensus within the political leadership in Congress to authorize military intervention in Iraq.

After October 2002, the media served as an uncritical Echo Chamber to the Executive Branch's countdown towards war.

* How can this dichotomous objectivity constraint be overcome without resorting to a partisan press?
* Is there a new paradigm of journalistic production that can more comprehensively cover the complex issues of the day?


During the build-up to the war, I was reading a lot of dissident perspectives in the alternative press and hearing a lot of different perspectives from watching the United Nations deliberations on C-SPAN -- But I wasn't hearing many of these alternative perspectives reflected through the mainstream media.

Why Not? Mainly because of the political consensus that came from the institution of Congress. From an earlier blog post:

Even though 126 Democrats from the House of Representatives voted against the war, there were 81 who voted for it, and a majority of Senate Democrats voted for the war (29 to 21). But most importantly, the Congressional Leadership from both parties supported the war and even co-sponsored the resolution to "Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq" -- S.J.Res. 45 [Daschle-Lott] and H.J.Res. 114 [Hastert-Gephardt].

The over reliance on official sources combined with an oversimplified dichotomous "He Said/She Said" style of journalism makes it very difficult for the mainstream media to cover complex issues.

There needs to be a way to comprehensively integrate and balance objective facts with the intersubjective perspectives of political partisans as well as non-partisan experts.

Building off of Ken Wilber's Integral Philosophy, a new paradigm of "Integral Journalism" could be used to create news coverage that successfully integrates the exterior objective and interior subjective worlds of both the individual and the collective.

I should be able to implement the concept of Integral Journalism in The Echo Chamber by successfully incorporating a broad scope of expert perspectives regarding the pre-war performance of the mainstream media.

Conventional objective mainstream media juxtaposes partisan conservative perspectives with partisan liberal perspectives, and it feels like a debate where the reader feels obligated to chose one side or the other. But sometimes both perspectives can be right or both can be wrong -- or most often both perspectives are half-right and half-wrong.

Moving beyond a bi-partisan juxtaposition of intersubjective perceptions and including non-partisan perspectives would provide a check and balance on the two political monopolies whenever Democrats and Republicans agree on issues.

The Liberal Bias arguments from the conservative Media Research Center claim that the personal and cultural political biases of journalists slant the coverage towards a Liberal perspective.

According to Wilber's Integral Model, this argument is talking about the Upper Left Quadrant of the Interior-Individual (political bias of individual journalists) and Lower Left Quadrant of Interior-Collective (cultural political bias of the news room).

Progressives focus on the issues of corporate consolidation of the media, the economic and structural biases of news production and the government regulation of the public airwaves via the Federal Communications Commission.

According to Wilber's Integral Model, these three progressive arguments are located in the Lower Right Quadrant of the Collective-Exterior (observable structures of social systems).

The conservative media criticisms have to do the non-observable interior aspects of the individual journalists and collective newsroom political bias while the progressive media criticisms have to do with the exterior collective aspects of how the government is allowing further media consolidation which exacerbates the corporate profit-motives that affect the structural infrastructure and diversity of the news.

These arguments are talking at each other and not to each other because they are reflecting two completely different spheres of reality. The implementation of Wilber's Integral Theory to journalistic production can help integrate and organize the partial truths of each argument.

It can also successfully incorporate the observable, exterior objective facts while taking into consideration the invisible, interior intersubjective perceptions.

A decision that I've made at the beginning of production was to try to avoid using any narration in this project. If I couldn't find someone else to say it, then I shouldn't include any of my judgments in the finished film.

It wasn't until I finished all of my interviews that I discovered Wilber's Integral Approach. I realized that I was attempting to integrate all of these different perspectives, and I was struggling with how to organize the grains of truth from each perspective -- while still pointing out the untruths.

Whenever narration is used, then it becomes a lot easier to include personal judgments that are biased and often times incorrect.

I discovered many of my own misjudgments by using this process, and often times judgments that confirmed my own theories were said in a totally different than how I would have narrated it.

This constraint also forced me to seek out the most authoritative experts that I could find in order to make the points that I wanted to make.

I would make the claim that the "He Said / She Said" objectivity standard of mainstream journalism stimulates the polarizing aspects of debate. Meaning is created by individuals who are isolated from interacting with dissident points of view, and the current state of journalism is not effective at bridging this polarized gap.

I envision that an Integral Approach to journalism would encourage and stimulate dialogue between opposing viewpoints so that the meaning can be co-created by the collective. By incorporating the perspectives of a variety of different official views and experts, then Integral Journalism would put a larger emphasis on bridging the gaps of understanding between conflicting perspectives.

I'm not intending to structure The Echo Chamber as a debate where my anti-war sentiments will automatically win -- I'd prefer to structure it as a dialogue where the viewer is allowed to seriously explore the strongest merits of each side of the argument.

By the end, I hope to bring more understanding each perspective, and I'll let the viewer decide for themselves what meaning to create from it.

I envision that Integral Journalism would attempt to foster a dialogue as opposed to stimulate a debate.

Mark Gerzon is an "expert in civil discourse" who directs the Mediators Foundation. He was also one of the founding members of the and Integral Institute's Branch of Integral Politics.

Gerzon has mediated between many different communities that are in conflict around the world such as "Democrats and Republicans, Israelis and Palestinians, corporations and anti-corporate activists." He has come up with a chart that explains the differences between Debate and Dialogue reprinted below with permission:

Assuming that there is a right answer, and you have it Assuming that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they craft a new solution
Combative: participants attempt to prove the other side wrong Collaborative: participants work together toward common understanding
About winning About exploring common ground
Listening to find flaws and make counter arguments Listening to understand, find meaning and agreement
Defending our own assumptions as truth Revealing our assumptions for reevaluation
Seeing two sides of an issue Seeing all sides of an issue
Defending one’s own views against those of others Admitting that others’ thinking can improve on one’s own
Searching for flaws and weaknesses in others’ positions Searching for strengths and value in others’ positions
By creating a winner and loser, discourages further discussion Keeps the topic open even after the discussion formally ends
Seeking a conclusion or vote that ratifies your position Discovering new options, not seeking closure

I envision that the concept of "Integral Journalism" would embody and promote all of the features of Dialogue that Gerzon has listed above. I also see that the both the objective mainstream American media and partisan press embody and promote all of the aspects of Debate.

This is my first attempt of coalescing my thoughts about how to integrate Wilber's Integral Approach to Journalistic Production. I'm sure that this concept of Integral Journalism will continue to develop and evolve as this project progresses.