J500 Media and the Environment

True Objectivity: Is it Possible? by paulineah

“News, like all human observations, is not truly objective…. Human scenes described by different individuals are seen with differences.”

                -Ben Bagdikian, journalist

What does it take to be truly objective? If you agree with Bagdikian, it’s not even possible. After all, for a journalist, even choosing which story you cover could be considered biased.

I think that objective journalism is necessary in order for us to form our own opinions. However, I also believe that it’s nearly impossible to be truly objective. We just can’t help it. It’s human nature. We’re emotional creatures with life experiences that have shaped our views. Just ask two people to write an unbiased story on a topic. It’s unlikely they’ll produce the same product.

Objective reporting is easier said than done.

Objective reporting is easier said than done.

On the other hand, I also see the need for advocacy in journalism. From a viewer’s perspective, I think it’s great to hear a journalist talk or write on a topic they’re passionate about. When a journalist becomes an advocate, they step away from a spectator role and act as an engaged subject, trying to make the world a better place.

It brings attention to and provides a voice for an issue that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Advocacy journalism has the potential to inspire ideas, spark change and promote compassion.

I did find an essay on the University of Wisconsin’s School of Journalism Web site, discussing this very topic. I think it does a good job of capturing the delicate balance between advocacy and objectivity.

Clearly, reporting with an agenda has fuzzy boundaries. When is it appropriate? Should it be blended with mainstream news?

~Pauline Horton


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Pauline, you make some great points in your post. I agree that true objectivity is impossible in journalism. However I think it can be looked at as something to strive towards — more of a journey than a destination. I also thought you statement “reporting with an agenda has fuzzy boundaries” was well put. I am not entirely comfortable with advocacy journalism, maybe because it sounds like an oxymoron. It also vaguely resembles propaganda with a smiley face. At a minimum , advocacy journalism should be clearly and consistently identified as such, just as opinion pieces are in legitimate news sources.

Comment by IanN

Ian, thanks for the feedback. You pointed out that journalists should still strive for objectivity – I absolutely agree. We shouldn’t admit objectivity is impossible and just quit pursuing it. As long as journalists endeavor to achieve objectivity in their stories, that’s still progress in the right direction.

-Pauline H

Comment by paulineah

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