Objectivity in Journalism
July 8, 2003 | Like this article? Join our email list: Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email. In his Mar. 6 press conference, in which he laid out his reasons for the coming war, President Bush mentioned al Qaeda or the attacks of Sept. 11 fourteen times in fifty-two minutes. No one challenged him on it, despite the fact that the CIA had questioned the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, and that there has never been solid evidence marshaled to support the idea that Iraq was involved in the attacks of 9/11.
Journalists often claim that their own biases and the pressures from advertisers and media owners do not affect their work because of their professional norm of 'objectivity'. Journalistic objectivity has two components. The first is 'depersonalisation' which means that journalists should not overtly express their own views, evaluations, or beliefs. The second is 'balance' which involves presenting the views of representatives of both sides of a controversy without favouring one side.(Entman 1989, p. 30; Nelkin 1987, p. 91) Associated conventions include: authoritative sources, such as politicians must be quoted (in this way the journalist is seen to distance him- or herself from the views reported, by establishing that they are someone else's opinions); 'fact' must be separated from 'opinion', and 'hard news' from 'editorial comment'; and the presentation of information must be structured pyramidically, with the most important bits coming first, at the 'top' of the story. The Media - Objectivity
This is a confusing time for journalism students. Professors stress the importance of objectivity in reporting, but some of the most prominent journalists in the country - the hosts of cable TV talk shows - are anything but objective. So what's going on? What's going on is that two of the three main cable news channels - FOX News and MSNBC - have discovered that opinion-based talk shows get high ratings.
Scholars who study journalism, myself included, have found that efforts by journalists to stay neutral often backfire, resulting in exactly the opposite effect they desire. Journalists, for example, may try to balance “both sides” of a contentious issue, seeking out authoritative sources to give a credible account of each position. But, in seeking out authoritative people, they simultaneously offer a public platform to the very people who are already powerful. Along these lines, Describing early coverage of the Vietnam War, Hallin (1986: 25) writes: The Bias of Objectivity in U.S. Journalism
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Journalistic Objectivity: “Getting the Best Obtainable Version of the Truth” Text of Speech at the Indymedia Conference – Nov. 13, 2010 Objectivity does not exist, in journalism or in any other sphere. That is what quantum physicists have been telling us now for nearly a century. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us that what you know about a quantum particle depends on what you measure. You can measure its position, but you cannot determine where is it going at the same time with equal accuracy, and vice versa.
In response to the rapidly changing media environment, many schools and academic programs are offering novel approaches to journalism education. This seismic change creates tensions within programs, especially when it comes to how to teach ethics for this increasingly mixed media. In an earlier column, I put forward some principles for teaching ethics amid this media revolution. But these principles do not address some specific problems. Whither objectivity? Today, students don’t just learn how to report straight news on deadline.
Journalism, as we've known it, has been mourned deeply over the last few years. The Internet has changed everything. "Citizen journalism," a phrase that still inspires dirty looks at most journalism conferences, has blurred the lines between objectivity and subjectivity, paid and unpaid labor, news and opinion. It gives veteran journalists agita to imagine totally untrained people messing around in their exclusive, albeit hardscrabble, club.
The first three years of the Project’s work involved listening and talking with journalists and others around the country about what defines the work. What emerged out of those conversations are the following nine core principles of journalism: 1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth