LJWorld.com weblogs Lauren Keith
The End of Objectivity
Sometimes it baffles me that I came to school to be a journalist. The principles that journalists hold dear—fairness, accuracy, ethics, objectivity—are concepts that seem too far-fetched, yet obviously innate, to be taught.
This is the last week of my journalism education, and all I’ve become is increasingly skeptical of journalism as an institution. The face of journalism is changing, and we desperately need a makeover, inside and outside.
Today, we’re mostly fretting how the Web is turning the newspaper into a fiber cemetery, but it doesn’t seem like much is being discussed about how we gather information, whom we talk to and how we talk about it.
Journalists are taught to find the two sides to every story and to give each side its due share of time. We are instructed to be uninvolved, to hide our political affiliations and to delete our personal Twitter feeds. If robots could write the news, we’d give them a deadline.
Journalists are living, breathing, caring human beings. Does it make sense anymore to expect us to be uninvolved and disinterested, functioning as referees instead of participants?
A new debate has emerged about whether to allow reporters and editors to have blogs that share their views on what they cover or to detail internal problems or thoughts. Some fear this might hurt journalists’ or the publication’s credibility. But doesn’t inadvertently tailoring stories to fit advertisers’ needs or talking to only two sources do the same thing?
Perhaps this need for human opinion and error helps explain Fox News’ once-again high ratings or my generation’s ditching of the newspaper for magazines, blogs, the Daily Show or reader-ranked news, like Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, the Weblist or Reddit.
Instead of aiming for objectivity, let’s go for thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency, as Dan Gillmor suggests. When we’re mad as hell or when we want to issue a call to action, we should be able to do that.
Blogs provide that much-needed transparency. This move could spell the downfall of what we think of as traditional detached journalism for opinion journalism. Readers already go to multiple sources for multiple points of view and takes on a single subject, so let’s stop being the secretive wizard behind the curtain.