J500 Media and the Environment

No Spin is No Fun by carrieshoptaw

The context of the story, purpose of the reporter and philosophy of the media outlet is coordinated to manage the choices around advocacy or objectivity in journalism. Certainly the expectation, with both formats, is that facts will be presented accurately and that conflicting viewpoints will have representation. Either extreme however, verging on propaganda with advocacy journalism and detachment in objective journalism, instantly reduces the potential for a wide spread, consistent audience appeal, in my opinion. 

Omitting or distorting information to advocate a point or under the pretense of objective reporting is certainly the most obvious way to lose an intelligent audience. The O’Reilly Factor, for instance, clearly advocates for their interpretations of conservative values, rather than the truly objective “fair and balanced reporting” they propose.

To me it’s so misleading that it’s become almost entertainment-based, and sometimes just as funny a show, as the Daily Show or Colbert Report, that sardonically deliver the news for liberal audiences. 

As long as the framework for the reports is honest and the facts are true, either reporting style can be provocative. However, it is frankly far more interesting to read stories by reporters at The Green that invite feelings about environmental issues, or to join the chase of serious business, even journalistic, ethical infractions as does the U.K.’s  Guardian or even to get a better view of the world through stories that advocate ethics in specific religions like the National Catholic Reporter or the local Jewish Chronicle. While each outlet has perhaps a primary demographic, they offer information relevant for the interests of society as a whole. 

Objective reporting is expected in news outlets with limited time and a broader audience; it doesn’t always seem designed to even expect a reaction.  When the whole story has time to be played out in a more focused way to a more particular audience, as with advocacy journalism, the issues have more room to be emotive and become more interesting.

(Colbert and O’Reilly parody themselves in this You Tube clip posted October 11, 2008 by HasanSim14 as obtained by Fox News)



2 Comments so far
Leave a comment


Advocacy journalism may be more fun and entertaining. It may even be honest and full of facts. But by its one-sided nature, doesn’t it leave out as many important voices and facts as it includes?

When a reporter makes the choice to “advocate,” they’ve already begun to exclude and filter information. Is this honesty or (well-meaning) manipulation?

Advocacy journalism may be more “emotive” as you say, but isn’t playing on emotion and evoking response the job of Madison Avenue? If journalists are in the business of manipulation, who isn’t?

Cheri L.

Comment by CheriL

Hi Cheri,

In extreme cases, advocacy-style journalism is most entertaining when it’s claiming, and failing, objective journalism. Authentic advocacy journalism is just more interesting to me because it often tells more story for me to think about.

I think journalists using either advocacy or objective reporting are always in the business of manipulation, just for different reasons. Aren’t both jobs designed to tell us about our world, local, national or international, so that we can make decisions about our place in it? Their reports have caused, they hope, a change, either in perception or awareness.

As for Madison Avenue, the wall between advertising and journalism is getting thinner every day, especially as newspapers fall further and further off the media radar. The “great divide” that was there when I stared buying media ads and pitching editorial eleven years ago even, has started to get more comfortable with “advertorial” systems and actually creates entire supplemental publications to encourage the commingling of ad sales and stories.

So who’s dishing what?


Comment by carrieshoptaw

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