Objectivity: An impossible to attain and outmoded ideal that's dragging down traditional news.
For the last couple of years I've been thinking about the journalistic doctrine of objectivity and how difficult it is to put into practice. It's been a pillar of journalistic training since the profession recovered from the yellow journalism era in the early phase of mass media in the last century. But, maybe its time to be honest and admit that its impossible to achieve and is no longer what the audience is looking for.
Providing objective reporting of stories, in principle, meant that reporters insured that they kept their opinions to themselves and that both sides of an issue were equally covered. What an altruistic and lofty goal. In reality, however, I don't think its humanely possible to be totally objective about anything. No matter what, our life experiences, gender, education, neighborhood and a myriad of other things effect how we perceive the world and how we define objectivity in regard to any story.
In today's media world, the readers, viewers and listeners of news, having spent their entire lifetimes as consumers of news and information, realize that the journalist's cloak of objectivity is an illusion. Journalist's continued preaching of their commitment to objectivity, when the news consumer senses that they aren't, contributes, I believe, to why many feel journalists and news organizations are biased.
I also think that much of the writing that is typical of objective reporting, when it comes down to it, is boring. The personality of the reporter is missing. What the story means to them and how they interpret the story is subverted. In today's world, with all the competing sources of information, I think people are looking for interpretation and the perspective of the reporter.
If news organizations and the journalists who work for them want to be relevant in today's world I recommend that they let go of the "objectivity" ideal. Be clear that you are not objective, that you are interpreting what a story means, that you have a perspective. If a news organization wants to cover the various sides of an issue, then have multiple authors, each reporting from their view of a story.
Being honest about not being objective is more truthful than purporting to be objective when you aren't.
So it's time to accept that "objectivity" was a core part of American journalism's history and not the foundation of its future.