Objectivity’s role in today’s journalism

This week in class we covered a lot of material, as usual. One of the most interesting discussions, to me, was that of objectivity. Objectivity is one of the most important principles in journalism. It’s what makes those in the craft credible to a wide audience of people and makes the news organization they work for seem unbiased. In the J-School, we’re encouraged and advised to maintain an objective profile, both in person and on social media, and especially in our stories.

But this week for class, we read a blog post from the perspective of a transgender journalist who had been fired from his job after posting about how he couldn’t – and didn’t think he should – remain objective in his reporting about transgender issues. That is by no mean all he said in his blog, and I would encourage you to read the rest of it. But I think what he did say raised an interesting point.

Given today’s political climate, everybody has an opinion. It would be nearly impossible not to. Of course our opinions shouldn’t impact our reporting, so I don’t necessarily agree with that part of Wallace’s blog post. But I think what journalists should consider is whether objectivity or truth is more important in our profession. I do think that in trying to remain objective, we sometimes neglect to tell the truth. This John Oliver clip explains it perfectly. In it, he says that 99 percent of scientists say climate change exists, but the media still reports stories from the perspective that it doesn’t. To me, if 99 percent of scientists say climate change exists, then it exists. Shouldn’t we report on climate change from the perspective that it does exist, rather than hedging some people don’t believe in it, thus giving them fodder not to believe in it? They may say reporting that truth makes us one-sided and liberal, but at least we would be reporting the truth and giving our audience the information they need to be well-informed.

This is by no means a simple issue, and that was just one perspective and one example. But I think the debate is on whether journalism still is objective and whether it should be. I find it to be an interesting debate, and one that I honestly can’t form a concrete opinion on. There are too many perspectives and I am too little informed on all of them for me to hook my star to a specific view on the subject. But I think it deserves a little consideration from all of us.


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