J500 Media and the Environment

News Reporting Objectivity…Put a Fork in it by jasonmer

Objectivity in journalism assumes that truth is equidistant from two competing viewpoints.  Without a vacuum available for journalistic objectivity to operate, the sword of sensationalism wields its sharp edge on truth and skews perceptions of reality.  Search for objectivity in today’s news media environment quickly leads to confusion and bewilderment for the casual observer.

Bias from the Left?

Bias from the Left?

I can watch two different channels on television (CNN and FOX News) and get two different interpretations of the same news story.

Do you remember who won the 2008 Vice-Presidential Debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden?

Depends on whether you watched CNN or FOX News after the debate.  FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly gave the victory to Sarah Palin while CNN’s political analyst Carl Bernstein gave the victory to Joe Biden.  Observation of each network in the days following the debate revealed similar bias throughout their programming on the victor. 

All major pollsters, regardless of alleged or stated political bias, showed Joe Biden won the debate. 

Bias from the Right?

Bias from the Right?

Reporting bias on FOX News and CNN are commonplace.  Examples include lightening rod environmental problems like climate change where CNN and FOX News differ dramatically in their reporting; or the socially charged issue of government taxation and spending that played out via “tea partys” on April 15th, 2009.  Both networks grasp to their own glorified version of objectivity.  So who is right?  I think they both are right.  I just wouldn’t call it journalistic objectivity.  Objectivity has been lost; specifically when it comes to politics and social issues.

Advocacy in journalism is replacing objectivity.  New and diverse means of communication provide a voice to anyone who wants a journalistic license; I use the term “license” loosely.  The voiceless can have a voice; the voice that has gone unchecked now receives balance.  Journalists engaging in stories that evoke personal passion shouldn’t be silent observers, but to what extent should transparency, statement of personal bias, and balanced reporting be a part of the discourse?  An uninformed casual observer can be easily influenced by the current media landscape.

Jason Merckling


2 Comments so far
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Hi Jason,

Bill O’Reilly came to mind for me as well and actually I’m really fine with the very opinion based reports from his show and so many others, too. I just get frustrated when they don’t acknowledge the framework as being advocacy journalism – making claims to be objective is what makes those shows so ridiculous to me. But they are most entertaining, and I flip channels, too, to get everyone’s slant on major events.
You said that advocacy in journalism was replacing objective journalism. As for television, do you think the big three networks are even headed that way? Or will it remain more acceptable for the cable networks, as it is now?


Comment by carrieshoptaw

Hi Carrie,

I do believe the big three news media networks (ABC, NBC, & CBS) are headed, if not already there, to advocacy journalism. The arguement that you constantly hear is that the big three networks are liberal in their bias. In doing my research I was hard pressed to find any liberal websites, blogs, or articles claiming that the big three networks were conservative. Conversely, it was quite easy to find conservative websites, blogs, and articles claiming that the big three networks were liberal in their bias. Thus, I conlude that a media bias exists in the big three which is liberal leaning in nature. I will provide one link to an article which uses the highly respected (and unbiased?) Nielsen Media Research group.


The Nielsen group evaluated viewership among the big three networks during the height of the 2008 Presidential Election and found a major drop off in number of viewers among each of the big three networks. This drop occured while viewership and interest of the Presidential Election was at an all time high.

Commentary in the article, from a conservative research group, believes the reason for the drop off in viewers is due to the public coming to the realization of a liberal bias among the big three networks.

My own observations say “yes” to the question of whether advocacy journalism exists among the big three networks.

Jason Merckling

Comment by jasonmer

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