Filed under: J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: culture, journalism, objectivity, tabula rasa
Here’s my problem with the term “journalistic objectivity.” Nobody, no matter how hard they try, can see through eyes other than their own. No journalist is a tabula rasa on which the facts of a story can be written. We write through cultural filters, and we can’t help it.
Our culture defines who we are and how we see things. Two people raised in two different cultures can draw completely different conclusions on the exact same set of facts. And in their cultural setting, each would be correct. In 1991 researchers Markus and Kitayama concluded that culture “can influence and in many cases determine the very nature of individual experience, including cognition, emotion and motivation.”
This research is becoming real to me as I get to know the father of my granddaughter. I am the product of married, middle-class, college-educated, Caucasian parents, and grew up in the suburbs of a city in the northeast. He is African American, and grew up welfare-poor in rural southeast Kansas. His mother was 14-years-old when he was born, and he was raised by his grandmother. Both he and his father have spent time in jail. Last summer he lived with us for a few weeks. In that time my eyes were opened to a completely different way of thinking. I found my jaw dropping into my lap quite often, as he routinely spoke of things that I consider criminal/anti-social/reprehensible as a normal way of life. Most memorable was the time he spoke of a friend who “disappeared” after he cooperated with the police in the investigation of the death of an acquaintance. It was just another every-day occurence for him. I hope he couldn’t see how mortified I was.
If, as Markus and Kitayama concluded, culture is deterministic on our cognition and the way we interpret facts and events, how can we hope to be objective in journalism, or any kind of communication?
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