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Objective Journalism: Does it Exist? Did It Ever Exist?

It’s not unusual for people to romanticize the past. Older generations always tend to look back on the most menial of things and proclaim, “oh, back then, we had this and it was great.” Or if there’s something that looks bleak, they’ll look back on the past as if it was better somehow with, “this kind of thing would never have happened back then.” It’s a typical case of “the grass is greener on the other side” and “you never know what you have until it’s gone.” For some reason, it’s more prevalent today. I’m not sure why but everyone and their mom seems to have some sort of condescending feeling against Millennials as if we’re some weird generation. It seems like everything that happens today is available for condemnation. In the case of this essay, it’s the subject of Press.

Ted Koppel’s searing words with Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reily about the objectivity in the press has continued to resonate with me for the last few months. And with the concept of “fake news” being exacerbated. It brings the question: Has Journalism lost it’s integrity? Did it ever even have integrity?

What does it mean for Journalism to have Integrity though? Is it the inflection that reporters have when they tell the stories? Their voices? Should reporters strive to have that Walter Cronkite or Ted Brockaw-esque voice? Or be able to write like Hunter S. Thompson, with extreme eloquence that just grabs the reader? Does any of that even matter? Is it even relevant if you don’t have hard evidence to support your stories?

Some writers think objective journalism is not just non-existent, it’s a pipe-dream. One writer of a New York Times op-ed suggests readers will find truth contingent upon who the author is. He takes the example of Jon Stewart and states, “we live in a society now where people want to know who a journalist is before they decide whether or not to believe his or her reporting.” He continued, “Americans got to know Jon Stewart quickly and quickly learned to trust him even though he clearly had a point of view.” A couple things however. One, why would we not want to know who a Journalist is before we decide to listen to their reporting? Indeed, it is naiive to already make a judgement about a reporter before listening to their report. At the same time, you wouldn’t trust a doctor who was notorious for committing malpractice.  Secondly, Jon Stewart never claimed to be a journalist. In fact, he made this point perfectly clear in a debate with Tucker Carlson a decade ago A similar sentiment was echoed by John Oliver, when people discuss his influence over his audience with his show, Last Week Tonight.

There is a very lengthy, albeit classic article from the 1970s in The Atlantic, about the “New Journalism” movement that mentions the concept of Journalism, being ever-changing. Journalism once upon a time seemed to be this dastardly deed where reporters were eager to “find dirt” on politicians or what have you and later evolved into a respectable position. In terms of change, you are bound to have your ups and downs. And this time we’ve noticed that current events are too close to home for us to be so objective? Does that mean we can only find relative objectivity from reporters and writers that are upfront in how they convey themselves? In other words, is subjectivity the only thing people can rely on if they’re so desperate for truth? If so, at least we’re being honest.

-Mr. Writer

Written on the 26th of September, 2018 at 10:33 P.M. 

1 thought on “Objective Journalism: Does it Exist? Did It Ever Exist?

  1. As a former journalism student, I think of being a journalist first and foremost as being responsible. There is a lot of power in that ink. So, I suppose my first thought after reading is that I want them to be responsible. That should mean being truthful, objective, factual, but I think these days I’d settle for not being incendiary or ridiculous.

    Citizens also have a responsibility, to not believe everything they read or at least try to look for as much info as possible. As writers, we always push our own beliefs and agendas. I’m glad I’m writing about food! 😉

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