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

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

Week 4: Objectivity meets government, families and exiles? by monicadela

I remember the 2000 coverage of Elián González. Tensions between Cuba and the U.S. were at an all-time high. Miami, my hometown, was a boilerplate of emotions. The two points of contention were keeping the boy in the U.S. with relatives or returning him to his father in Cuba. Objectivity couldn’t be more of a challenge in a mix of a politics, family and a community of exiles. The media’s appetite for coverage, from repetitive television reports to endless magazine covers, made this case one as equally appropriate for media textbooks as for immigration law. At the center of it all was a border-less boy who went from an impoverished country to a yard surrounded by cameras and reporters. Do I even have to ask if the media fueled the controversy?

Video courtesy of http://www.youtube.com.

The media sets the tone for what the majority of us are aware of and concerned about. For the past week, it’s been Michael Jackson. There’s an adage about what’s left out of a camera shot being as important as what’s in focus. The same applies to reporting. What hasn’t been covered in the wake of what’s been deemed newsworthy? Consider the tenants of newsworthiness — timing, significance, proximity, prominence and human interest — and how they vary from publisher to reporter to reader/viewer. In a culture that’s become so audibly opinionated — blogs, social networks, reality TV — is objectivity even a consideration anymore? There are more pundits than reporters, more infotainment than investigation.

So, while journalists are charged as watchdogs, it’s up to the audience to judge if their sources have more bark than bite.

And, I wonder if, for fifteen-year-old Elián, America is synonymous with the flash of cameras?

-Monica D.-

The eyes of journalism by cindyol
July 8, 2009, 11:15 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

We are not blank pages when we start writing a story.

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?

Cindy Olsen

Does rise in new media change objectivity in traditional journalism? by jenniferedw
July 8, 2009, 7:49 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

I believe most journalists do strive to be objective. However, I wonder if the changing landscape of the media has made an impact on the way “traditional” journalists report the news.

The ways people find and read news are changing as technology progresses. Will this eventually lead to a change in the way traditional journalists cover news?

The ways people find and read news are changing as technology progresses. Will this eventually lead to a change in the way traditional journalists cover news?

During the past couple of years, the emergence of blogs and other similar internet communication functions has made it seem that anyone with knowledge about how to use these types of tools, and an opinion about any issue to share with others, can become a journalist in a sense. As bloggers have built audiences and new technology has changed the way people communicate, traditional journalism seems to be struggling. At wordpress.com, there are more than 205,000 bloggers, but less people are taking time to read a traditional newspaper or watch a traditional evening newscast. Instead people are finding news online when they want it and from a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources. This new behavior seems to be leading to layoffs at newspapers across the country while driving down profits at media companies.

As the pool of traditional journalists becomes smaller, they will be more stretched to cover a variety of topics, as opposed to in the past, when they may have been able to specialize in specific areas or beats. As they have less time to spend researching topics or gathering their own data, I wonder if it will become harder and harder to be objective and not be swayed by packaged data and messages from external sources, such as special interest groups — which represent the views of their own clients. In turn, because the traditional journalists likely work for still-well-respected news sources, they may set the tone about an issue for readers, bloggers, etc., who in turn perpetuate that message.

I’ve never worked as a journalist — this is only my perception about the ways the industry seems to be changing. I’m curious to hear from others who have worked directly within the industry, to see if this perception is true.

-Jennifer E.