Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is Objectivity Dead?

Daniella Limoli

Bias, It's What's For Dinner
As the lines between advertisers and the magazines who publish them become continually blurred, it poses the question: Is objectivity dead?

That fact that there are no cops policing bias or formal laws on ethics can leave much to the imagination for some reporters. While many news agencies such as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have their own handbooks on ethics, this can neither a) prevent lapses of judgment/outright bias or b) ensure that reporters aren't looking out for their own wallets in the end.

What Were They Thinking?
Bottled Prose: The Ethical Paradox of the Wine Press by Robert D. Richards is an excellent example of the conflicts of interest plaguing journalism. In the booming wine industry where one California winery sold for $1.36 billion, it's no wonder that companies can afford to schmooze food journalists into favorable reviews. So what we should be wondering is why these so-called reporters are willing to risk both their reputation and their integrity for a high class bottle of booze and some breakfast in bed.

My favorite line may be, "...but can these stories be trusted if the reporters attend a well-lubricated recent sleepover in the vineyard?"


What's even more disturbing than lubrication is that the story states that some food critics don't consider themselves journalists, and as such don't believe themselves to be held to the same (if any) ethical standards.

Tenets of Journalism
Several of the readings touch on the tenets of journalism (or lack thereof). Among these are honesty and objectivity. In "A Journalist Breaks the Golden Rule," Howard Rosenberg asserts that Oregon reporter Anna Song (right) broke another tenet of journalism by participating in a story that she was supposed to be an observer in. I believe Rosenberg is right in saying that while the young reporter may not have realized her misjudgment, her news director certainly should have.

Living by a Code
As journalists, we should also make every effort to avoid a conflict of interest in reporting. In some cases, like when journalists report on companies in which the hold a share, it's as if they are seeking out such a conflict. This is where a professional's personal code of ethics should be at the forefront of their mind--because once you cross that first line, you could toss the whole book before you know it.

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