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The mainstream press largely responds to the failures of objectivity by tightening up formalistic measures that keep up the charade of neutrality. In September, the Washington Post amended its newsroom guidelines on the use of social media tools after a reporter posted comments on Twitter that revealed his political leanings.

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Objectivity has become a matter of perception. It is a means to protecting the brand of the Fourth Estate as the all-knowing conveyers of truth. Maintaining the image of impartiality requires habitual use of the rituals of objectivity — the use of quotations, the inverted pyramid format, balance — and constant suppression of personal opinions.

Occasionally, a journalist like Leonard Downie comes along who believes his role as a journalist even trumps his rights as a citizen and therefore chooses not to exercise his right to vote in an attempt to maintain absolute impartiality. There is a serious cost to these efforts at journalistic detachment. Maintaining the appearance of neutrality by stifling normal human behavior has a dehumanizing effect on reporters.

Instead of a voice, the reader often gets a mechanical regurgitation of facts and quotations. Our lives are increasingly lived online, where the line between personal and professional is blurred, where we interact, engage, critique, and express opinions to friends, colleagues, and strangers. The stark contrast between the interactive, informal web and the formal, dehumanized mainstream media makes the disconnect more pronounced than ever. Those in the pro-objectivity camp believe this divide is not only acceptable, it is essential.

In this view, adhering to principles of objectivity is a means to distinguishing professional reporters from bloggers and the partisan press. It is a survival mechanism. While it may be tempting, using the gloss of objectivity to artificially differentiate those who engage in journalism is not a long-term survival strategy. It is undisputed that the public is unpersuaded and even disgusted by claims of journalistic neutrality.

Why, then, should we rely on this failed doctrine to save the mainstream media? Journalists do not need a novel doctrine or philosophy to replace objectivity. Rather, they simply need to give up the act. We all know journalists are human with opinions, emotions, and biases of their own. Good journalism requires the discipline not to hide those biases, but to challenge them, to examine opposing views, to think critically, and to remain skeptical. Credibility comes with intellectual honesty, not the charade of objectivity.

Undoubtedly, there will always be some who claim reporters have a political agenda no matter what they write or say. But abandoning the myth of the press as a neutral bystander to world events will go a long way toward reconnecting journalists with their audiences and with reality. Contrary to popular wisdom, it is possible to give up on the doctrine of objectivity without resorting to partisanship or advocacy. The best reporting tells a story rather than making an argument or attempting to persuade. It is authentic and human without being emotional and one-sided.

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These qualities are critical to maintaining an audience of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. But journalists have been rethinking, redefining, and revamping the doctrine of objectivity since it became the journalistic norm in the early 20th century. Still, we find ourselves with no clear definition of what it means to be an objective reporter. Amidst the confusion, the ideal has become permanently entangled with notions of neutrality, which, in turn, breeds the formalistic efforts at detachment that undermine quality journalism.

There is no reason to cling to the canon of objectivity. The doctrine has become a crutch, which not only excuses lazy reporting, but also fosters the notion that journalists are different and separable from the rest of us. At this point, the doctrine does more harm than good. Without the veneer of impartiality, journalists are more vulnerable.

But this is how people who successfully make a living practicing a craft — like art or music — survive. They simply practice their craft better than everyone else. This solution may provide little reassurance to an industry in the throes of upheaval, and many news organizations will opt to distinguish their brand with partisanship rather than taking a chance by competing on quality.

Yet, news outlets that speak to all of us, rather than catering to particular parties or ideologies, serve a valuable role in society.

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They create a common dialogue and expose people to issues and topics they might otherwise not have sought out. The future of these general-interest news sources depends not on objectivity, but on finally having the courage to move beyond it.

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I find this article dismaying, especially because it was written by someone who should know better. Beneath the passive voice and the academic argot, it poses the question: Journalists are honest brokers of information, nothing more, nothing less. The clamor for prosecutors and defense attorneys is loud but limited.

People have never wanted to think for themselves, preferring to receive in their mandibles the pre-chewed thoughts of others. The Internet and cable television makes that laziness easier. The Republic won't fall. But at some point they need and want to find out what happened. Substituting Michelle Malkin for The New York Times is not only laughable, but would make for a serious case of civic disorientation and aphasia.

Reality is what's left over when you've stopped believing in it and the pundits disappear in a puff of their own smoke. Thanks for the comment, but you clearly didn't read very far into my admittedly long blog post. If you did, you would see that I specifically reject partisanship as an answer for the general-interest media. If you read my full argument and have further comments, happy to discuss. I failed to see the turn of your presentation at paragraph 11 and the nub of your argument in the last paragraph. These qualities are critical to maintaining an audience of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives".

Good journalism requires the discipline not to hide those biases, but to challenge them, to examine opposing views, to think critically, and to remain sceptical. Credibility comes with intellectual honesty". I'm not clear if these two positions are contradictory. Over the last year I have been listening to and reading about " how people who successfully make a living practising a craft — like art or music — survive.

Journalists do not need a novel doctrine or philosophy to replace objectivity. Rather, they simply need to give up the act. We all know journalists are human with opinions, emotions, and biases of their own. Good journalism requires the discipline not to hide those biases, but to challenge them, to examine opposing views, to think critically, and to remain skeptical. Credibility comes with intellectual honesty, not the charade of objectivity. Undoubtedly, there will always be some who claim reporters have a political agenda no matter what they write or say.

But abandoning the myth of the press as a neutral bystander to world events will go a long way toward reconnecting journalists with their audiences and with reality. Contrary to popular wisdom, it is possible to give up on the doctrine of objectivity without resorting to partisanship or advocacy. The best reporting tells a story rather than making an argument or attempting to persuade.

It is authentic and human without being emotional and one-sided. These qualities are critical to maintaining an audience of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. But journalists have been rethinking, redefining, and revamping the doctrine of objectivity since it became the journalistic norm in the early 20th century. Still, we find ourselves with no clear definition of what it means to be an objective reporter.

Amidst the confusion, the ideal has become permanently entangled with notions of neutrality, which, in turn, breeds the formalistic efforts at detachment that undermine quality journalism. There is no reason to cling to the canon of objectivity. The doctrine has become a crutch, which not only excuses lazy reporting, but also fosters the notion that journalists are different and separable from the rest of us. At this point, the doctrine does more harm than good.

Without the veneer of impartiality, journalists are more vulnerable. But this is how people who successfully make a living practicing a craft — like art or music — survive. They simply practice their craft better than everyone else.


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This solution may provide little reassurance to an industry in the throes of upheaval, and many news organizations will opt to distinguish their brand with partisanship rather than taking a chance by competing on quality. Yet, news outlets that speak to all of us, rather than catering to particular parties or ideologies, serve a valuable role in society.

They create a common dialogue and expose people to issues and topics they might otherwise not have sought out. The future of these general-interest news sources depends not on objectivity, but on finally having the courage to move beyond it. I find this article dismaying, especially because it was written by someone who should know better. Beneath the passive voice and the academic argot, it poses the question: Journalists are honest brokers of information, nothing more, nothing less. The clamor for prosecutors and defense attorneys is loud but limited.

People have never wanted to think for themselves, preferring to receive in their mandibles the pre-chewed thoughts of others. The Internet and cable television makes that laziness easier. The Republic won't fall. But at some point they need and want to find out what happened. Substituting Michelle Malkin for The New York Times is not only laughable, but would make for a serious case of civic disorientation and aphasia.

Reality is what's left over when you've stopped believing in it and the pundits disappear in a puff of their own smoke. Thanks for the comment, but you clearly didn't read very far into my admittedly long blog post. If you did, you would see that I specifically reject partisanship as an answer for the general-interest media. If you read my full argument and have further comments, happy to discuss. I failed to see the turn of your presentation at paragraph 11 and the nub of your argument in the last paragraph.

These qualities are critical to maintaining an audience of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives". Good journalism requires the discipline not to hide those biases, but to challenge them, to examine opposing views, to think critically, and to remain sceptical.


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Credibility comes with intellectual honesty". I'm not clear if these two positions are contradictory. Over the last year I have been listening to and reading about " how people who successfully make a living practising a craft — like art or music — survive. Throughout this my critical response has been governed by how far the consciously or unconsciously the techniques of their practice to manipulate me especially when they exploit narrative but of course not only this.

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How far are they purveyors of fiction by constructing something that tells a STORY which is authentic and human'. Some protect themselves by claiming what they do is ironical or even satire if you are in on the tricks For others the emotional engagement and perhaps then regret on the part of the recipient of the aesthetic 'machine' is what is intended. In the light of this I find it difficult to believe a STORY can be told without or received without a viewpoint or emotional engagement.

Maybe a good exercise could be to rewrite Charles Dickens's opening passages on Coke Town in hard Times' according to your rubrics. I have chose this because in is the model of a scene setting entry to a STORY written by a master journalist. I do not doubt that you are right that everything we write or communicate reflects our point of view whether we realize it or not.

That is why I believe true "objectivity" is impossible. What I am trying to advocate perhaps ineffectively is coming at stories with as much of an open, critical mind as possible. In other words, to give it a concrete example, I would argue that the work of someone like the New Yorker's Jane Mayer is a much better model of quality general-interest journalism than someone like MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. Why the debate about media objectivity threatens the viability of general-interest news outlets.

Credibility comes with intellectual honesty" I'm not clear if these two positions are contradictory. Hopefully that helps explain my position. Thanks again for writing. E-mail The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. Notify me when new comments are posted. Once you hit Save, your comment will be held for moderation before being published.