Objectivity

I remember when newspaper, radio and TV reporters called themselves, well, reporters. There was an implication in the title that they were neutral observers. But then, many years ago, they began to call themselves “journalists.” That was a much more highfalutin title than a mere “reporter.” But with the change in title came a change in attitude. More and more schools of “journalism,”  I was told, declared “objectivity is impossible.”

A “journalist” is a very different person than a “reporter.”  A reporter is supposed to report. But what is a journalist supposed to do, anything he wants? It seems that’s what they have concluded, based on the shameless way they take sides in any debate.

Objectivity is impossible, we are told, because we all have opinions and it is impossible to view the world around us without being influenced by our opinions and presuppositions. This idea confuses objectivity with neutrality. It is entirely possible to be objective without being neutral.

Being objective means to report the facts as best you can rather than just your conclusions or opinions. It’s the opposite of being subjective. You don’t have to be completely neutral. You can still have an opinion. But, if you at least report the facts you are giving your audience the respect to draw a different conclusion or form a different opinion. Modern journalists do that less than they used to. because perfect objectivity is impossible they have completely abandoned any attempt at objectivity.

For instance, how often have you heard how bright, talented and qualified President Obama is and how dumb, unqualified and bigoted his political opponents are. Bright? By what standard? What is the criteria? Where is the IQ test or the grade-point-average? In other words, where are the objective measures? Ditto for the other, fawning, conclusions.

Even in an editorial, you owe your audience some hint of the facts you used to form your opinion. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion but an opinion without evidence is often just a message from the anointed elite, the journalists, that debate will not be tolerated. I prefer the old-fashioned reporters.

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