Friday, September 21, 2007

Is Objectivity Not Working?

SIMPLY PRESENTING the facts we are told has proven not to work in recent years.

The war in Iraq is the ultimate proof. Whether or not you agree with the military action, the reason for entering the war - the weapons of mass destruction - turned out to be a giant miscalculation. And American journalists helped sell the war to the public by simply reporting government claims.

The difficulty of remaining neutral leaves journalists in an awkward situation - regurgitating information makes us look weak and taking a stance makes us look biased.

The case of the Jena 6 again tests our abilities. Should we be fighting against the perceived injustices or do we report the facts we are told?

The greater problem is that the truth is rather elusive. How can we be certain that the information people tell journalists isn't already tainted by bias?

In cases like the Jena 6, how do we serve the public without overstepping our boundaries?

Should objectivity be scrapped as an antiquated notion?

NEW: Philadelphia Weekly columnist Kia Gregory on the Jena 6 and the responsibility of humanity.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

A journalists job is to stay neutral no matter what the situation if not they will lose readers from the beginning because if the audience feels the other way about the issue they will not want to read what that journalism has written. In all cases journalist seek information so isn't it the same. A journalist is suppose to investigate facts for their entry and then research to make sure the fact are true. Why is it so0o different with this story coverage?
~ Brittany

Chris said...

I don't think being neutral and objective means that the evidence can't speak for itself.
If you were covering a pedophiliac, would you have to give equal time and weight to the perspective of pedos who does not see the hurt or harm caused? Would you have to portray child molestation in a "balanced" fashion?
I enjoyed the discussion in class of news outlets analyzing and iterpreting the facts, instead of presenting them.

Here's a story from yesterday outside Jena.

Jamie Olson said...

I think it is possible to report only what is true fact while still shedding light on a cause. Is it not a fact that students on this campus as well as many others around the nation gathered to protest what is happening in Jena? We do have a duty to the truth, but both sides of this issue should definately be reported.

alexandra pillion said...

journalists should report the facts, try to remain neutral, and give both sides of the situation. in a case like this, simply giving the facts without including personal opinon or bias is all that is needed to champion the cause of the Jena 6. the objective truth shows that there is unequal treatment going on, and no matter how you feel about it, that is the truth.

Kylee said...

I think the fact that journalists are reporting on it alone shows that they have a compassion for the subject. It is their way of saying, "Hey. We care." By reporting as objectively as possible they are letting people know the whole story, as people should.

james riggio said...

in watching the news, ive heard reportes say "racially motivated arrests" or something along the lines of thAT dozens of times. regardless of your presonal opinion of this matter, them calling it racially motivated isnt really objective, is it?

Geo said...

Excellent point. Has the coverage of the Jena 6 episode been covered objectively?

- George (the teacher)

Morgan said...

Journalists should do the best they can to stay neutral, but in a case like the Jena 6, it's almost impossible; everyone who knows anything about the case is bound to have some opinion on it...if you care enough to learn about it, how could you not?

In controversial cases like this where it is extremely difficult to be objective, one of the most important things for journalists to do in reporting the story is to tell both sides. It is much easier to see a bias in a report that only tells the story from one point of view.

A reporters and anchors are saying this case could be the "biggest civil rights case of our time." I think this claim can be considered biased in itself, because isn't that a matter of opinion?

Thomas Mates said...

Objectivity is not the problem that journalists face today. The problems that journalists have are apathy and laziness. The old saying goes "don't beleive everything you read". This cliche refers to not beleiving everything you read in a news paper, but journalist should apply this to the "facts" that are handed to them by the government. It seems that the day of the investigative journalist is over. No one is willing to dig for the facts because it's just easier to regurgitate whatever press release is handed to them. People used to fear the what the media could do when they investigated a story, now it's almost become a joke. I say almost because there are those rare occassions where reports remember what their job is, but these ocassions have become rather few and far between. This is true for every news outlet, from the smallest local papers (which only print what the AP spoon feeds them)to 24 news stations like CNN ( who seem to care more about OJ Simpson's most recent act of stupidity then they do about real news). Objectivity is the only thing keeping most journalists from becoming full on political mouthpieces. As it is Edward Murrow is probably spinning in his grave. If we lose our objectivity he will most likely burst forth from the ground seeking vengence on us all.

Geo said...

Edward R. Murrow is considered one of the all time great journalists but he was by no means an objective journalist.

He championed causes, most notably McCarthyism and the whole Red Scare. It was largely because of Murrow's reports that Senator Joseph McCarthy's reign of terror ended.

On top of that, Murrow worked for the government at the end of his career. He was literally a propagandist for the Kennedy administration.

Murrow believed in things and he fought for them.

The state of journalism in the modern era may be grim - full of apathy and laziness as you say. But objectivity isn't what is keeping the ship from sinking. It's the societal need for journalism. People need information. Try living a day without a newspaper, television, Internet, cell phone, etc.

Journalism and news are in demand.

As a person who is railing against apathy and laziness, I expect great things from you Thomas Mates (and everyone else who complains about lazy journalists). You guys have to bail out the craft.

- George (the teacher)

Anonymous said...

I think that opinions should be left to the opinion writers. Everyone has opinions but going into the field of journalism it should be understood that you aren't to take either side. It's a journalists job to report the news not filter what our beliefs are to the public. Especially if it swings the way the public sees the actual issue. ---> Shalain Lewis

danielle harvey said...

I think that a journalist's job is to relay facts to readers, and because of this, I believe that a journalist should either give both sides of the story or stay completely in the middle.

When it comes to the Jena 6, I believe that the coverage was exactly what it should be. People need to know that there are others in the world that are outraged by this situation, but if people are too busy to do their own research and form their own opinions, then they should just stay out of the situation entirely.

It makes me so angry when people watch a news show and see others protesting and decide to join without knowing the facts. I am all for equal rights and I would certainly be willing to protest if I believed that the Jena 6 should be protested for. But I did my research, learned the facts, and made my own opinions. No, I don't think they deserve the media hoopla that they have received. And I'm glad that I made my own decisions instead of having to read a journalist's opinion and make it my own.

Anonymous said...

Journalists need to equally sell both sides of the story, give all the facts from both sides and let the reader decide for themselves...it is not the medias responsibily to make discions for its readers, nor to start a national movement...it is simply there to spread the truth.
-Chelsea

Geo said...

Regarding the media's coverage of the Jena 6 - the Washington Post did a story in July, and the rest of the national press didn't get involved until mid-August.

And the incidents that sparked the recent protests began about one year ago.

Why did it take so long for the press to catch on to this story?

- George (the teacher and devil's advocate)