As someone who has been in the never ending process of learning the in's and out's of journalism for the past eight years, something that has been drilled into my head since day one (and everyday after that) is the idea that journalism is at its core objective. In order to be a good journalist you must set aside your own personal beliefs on a subject and just simply report the truth. So why is it in this modern era this idea of objectivity, something so fundamental to journalism, being questioned?
What does objectivity in journalism mean?
Objectivity in journalism simply means free from bias. According to an article by the American Press Institute, "the term began to appear as part of journalism after the turn of the 20th century, particularly the 1920s, out of a growing recognition that journalist were full of bias."
This new idea demanded of journalist to develop a way in which to consistently test information, be transparent, in order for the journalist's own personal opinion to not interfere with the accuracy of a news piece.
The debate on objectivity
There seems to be two sections of thought when it comes to objectivity in the media. The first, according to The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, is that objectivity is "the source of main stream media's failure to connect with the public," while the other side argues that it is "a nobel idea" that will save journalism.
This debate begs the question of how an idea that came about to fix journalism, is now something we need to look at as possibly fixing as well.
Critics of objectivity have their evidence that times are changing and in a world that is becoming so polarized people want to only hear that their side is "right." These people point to the popularity of such programs as MSNBC, FOX News, and numerous blogs to illustrate the growing interest in opinionated journalism.
Looking at these sources we are left to question, are they right?
The push for objectivity to live on
A 2009 report done by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, shows that over time while party affiliation has been on a decline over the past couple years, political independents has been on a steady incline. This trend illustrates that political independence is the highest it has been in 70 years.
Knowing this, we can see that while leaning news outlets such as FOX and MSNBC do have their niche audiences, the general public itself isn't as patrician as some media may have you believe.
Here in lies the push back for objectivity. While it is nice to think that simply changing the media into a bias bubble will save viewership and then subsequently the media industry, in reality all this does is split your audience and viewership in half.
However, if you are clearly presenting the news, just blatantly reporting the facts, all the facts, your media outlet becomes one that informed people, and the learn to trust and time and time again will return to it regardless of their political ideologies.