J500 Media and the Environment

Objectivity for the Greater Good by jennibro

On September 11th, 2001 the world turned silent at 8:45am (EDT). Televisions and computers filled rooms with glowing light and reporter’s voices became the only sounds as millions began to follow the terrifying coverage.
I, along with countless others, remember exactly what I was doing at this moment. I stared at the tv, unable to think about anything other than wanting to know more. Classmates turned on computers, reading out the headlines as the words terrorism, conspiracy, attack and death screamed out.
Journalists, by training, are supposed to remain objective when it comes to media coverage. This simple ideal becomes comprised when journalists are required to report on something that strikes an emotional resonance with them. On September 11th journalists professional integrity was put to the test, and many reporters naturally became advocates in support of the war against terrorism.
In the weeks following the events, journalists fueled the fire for American Pride by reporting stories centered around terrorism, or scenes of Americans showing Patriotism. The following graph from Journalism.org  shows the  percentage changes in news coverage following 9/11. 

News coverage following 9/11

Advocacy Journalism was born from a passionate response to the events taking place. We saw a very pro-American viewpoint, but what was going on outside of America’s borders?

I believe that a journalist can never truly be objective. In a perfect world a journalist would quiet their voice and report both sides of an issue, but sometimes it is for the greater good to omit certain truths. A journalist should advocate their beliefs, but only when the audience is aware it is in the journalist’s personal opinion.

With the country in a state of grieving, some may argue that it violated journalistic ethics to show both sides of the story, and give terrorists a voice. It was easier to advocate for America, and urge people to fight back against a faceless society. However, isn’t that similat to putting a band-aid over a wound without cleaning it? Where is the line that journalists shouldn’t cross when pursuing their beliefs in reporting? Should they always show both sides of the story?

Jenni Brown


2 Comments so far
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You pose an excellent question. I think it would be better for a journalist to at least investigate and provide evidence for or against “the other side”, even if he or she doesn’t show both sides of the story. I can think of Judith Miller’s story about WMD, which later turned out to be a totally one-sided story.
She could’ve been more objective without actually speaking for the terrorists.

-Victor V

Comment by victorvi


Excellent example with Judy Miller’s story. I remember all of the controversy surrounding her stories because of them being such a high profile investigation. I agree with you that evidence should be provided to tell the other side of the story, but I think it is still the journalists responsibility to not be entirely blatent with some information that could be harmful to release.

The Al Jazerra for example report with no bias or objectivity. Because of this many people have made claims of sensationalism against the independent media outlet.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the Al Jazeera broadcast videos of Osama Bin Laden. In the videos Osama justified why the attacks happened and gave his opinion in favor of the attack. In response to this action, the US began making claims that the Al Jaszeera were involved in the terrorist attacks by advocating on behalf of the terrorists.

Al Jazeera responded to these claims saying that they were just reporting the facts, free of bias. The videos however, still struck a chord in the American public and fueled the fire toward war.

-Jenni Brown

Comment by jennibro

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