Sunday, December 1, 2013

Objectivity vs. The Truth

Taylor Petras

What is Objectivity?

According to the Columbia Journalism Review article about "Re-Thinking Objectivity," it appears that the definition and application of objectivity through a journalistic standpoint has been skewed over the past several years.

We, as reporters and journalists, are falling into this dangerous pit of rushing to get stories done by deadline. Therefore, we present the two sides of the story, provide a quote from our “go-to” expert and slap an objective stamp on that.

However, as we remain neutral in our reporting, we tend to shy away from what is actually the truth. This article gave three examples of reporting on a variety of stories about the September 11th attacks and the Iraq War, but it argues that none of these stories really went into the deep, underlying issues of the story.

The writer of the article, Brent Cunningham, says that the particular failure of the press in these situations was “allowing the principle of objectivity to make us passive recipients of news, rather than aggressive analyzers and explainers of it.”

While we want to remain objective and neutral as reporters, our first obligation is to the truth. This can become difficult in certain situations regarding politics and social issues, in which we try to not have our biases come into play.

Objectivity in Social Issues:

The lack of media coverage of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell who was accused of killing seven newborn infants and one mother with unsafe abortion practices can partially be blamed for the potential bias and conflicts of interests that existed in the reporters and/or their news outlets.

This case should have been a widespread story across the nation; however many outlets chose to ignore it and offer as little as 76 words regarding information of the case to its viewers. Fox News was the only consistent national TV source to cover the trial of Gosnell by running 11 news stories.  

Although conflicts of interest may have come into play regarding the topic of abortion, news outlets should feel obligated to inform the public about what is happening in our society. We as journalists cannot be afraid to possibly offend our viewers or readers during the coverage of what should have been a national story. On the other hand, we must still remain objective in our reporting and not let our biased opinions, whatever they may be, get in the way of reporting the truth.

Video Courtesy of Fox News

Objectivity in Political Issues:                                                 Photo Courtesy: Ladawna (Flickr)

Being objective when reporting on political issues can be difficult at times, but it is something that must be done to obtain the truth. A great example of this was in the article in which many news outlets were determining whether to use the word “Obamacare” in their reporting.

Some think that it is a “politically-charged term,” whereas others view it as every day vernacular. Obamacare comes with both positive and negative reactions from the public; therefore, if we use the term in a neutral, objective story, they are going to already have their preconceived opinions about the health care plan.

While it is understandable the news outlets and reporters want to keep their political stance and opinions out of stories, it seems that this one is out of our hands. Whether the public agrees with the health care bill or not, they understand it and recognize it as Obamacare.

One of the final points this article made was the percentage of people who were familiar with the term Obamacare in comparison to its partner name, the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 30 percent did not know what ACA was, whereas only 12 percent did not know was Obamacare was. I think that the news outlets should stick to what the public knows the health care bill to be called. They can still do this by remaining objective in their reporting as well as keeping their political bias at bay.

                                                       Photo Courtesy: Fox News

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