The Need for Credible Objectivity in News Reporting
It is finally time for the annual media Christmas party, and I can’t wait! Time for the TV networks to do their Christmas special, or the movies to come out in December, either way I’ll be there, and I’ll enjoy every minute of it. But what about you? The busy working parent, or stay-at-home mom, or a college student? Don’t miss out on all the fun, because I’ve got a gift for you!
Fake it, if you must – that is the mantra of those who value accurate, truthful information over anything else; but are you guilty of this faux media literacy? When it comes to the national media we seem to think false information is normal, almost encouraged. In fact, some of it is unbelievable. And then there are the “he said, she said” media reports, and the wild twists and turns in real estate and celebrity news, often enough to make a conspiracy theory look plausible. This kind of false information and inaccurate reporting is not only misleading, it’s dangerous.
The vaunted “objectivity” in journalism is supposed to shield us from such fanciful notions as truthiness. So what does that mean? For most journalists covering a given subject, objectivity means honesty. That s good news, for newspapers, and television stations that intend to air any possible candidate for office, and possibly an uncommonly unlikely candidate for president, or another national position, in the near future. In rare cases, the objectivity also means avoiding the soap opera format of endless interviews, and allowing candidates to make their own statements without being grilled about every other bit of personal knowledge they may have.
Unfortunately, it is a different kettle of fish entirely when it comes to the Internet. Where most newspapers and television stations have chosen to only report factual information, and where many people believe the Internet to be a blank slate of unspoken truth, Internet journalists may tend toward hyperbole and personal opinion, or even blatant misinformation. This kind of obvious slant in journalism has already caused problems for the press in the past, with some newspapers inadvertently outing confidential sources. If the Internet makes it too easy for irresponsible or unsourced information to get into the public consciousness, how will that impact on society? Will journalists who have their personal opinions or slanted reporting end up ruining the reputation of legitimate sources of information? Is that really something we want to happen?
In this era of social media and blogging, what is it really the new medium of choice for getting information to people? Personal blogs allow readers to write about things they feel strongly about, often times in a somewhat personal manner. They also make news more personal, as the audience is allowed to weigh in on a particular story, and the reporter can be forced to defend the accuracy of his or her reporting.
In the final analysis, it appears clear that objectivity means having to be careful what you publish. It would be a shame if we lost our ability to think objectively in this new digital age. Unfortunately, many news organizations have not yet developed solid enough policies and procedures for ensuring objectivity while still maintaining good taste and good business sense. At the very least, journalists must remember that objectivity does not mean publishing anything without thought. Indeed, the best news stories aren’t always the most newsworthy, and accurate reporting often requires extra work. It would be refreshing to see another media outlet to take the lead in ensuring its reporters are exercising proper thought while writing and reporting any piece of news.