The new meaning of objectivity

Objectivity has long been a mainstay for journalism. A new study that asks “is objectivity possible in journalism?”

The survey polled 500 Spot.Us users. Only 13.5% of respondents identified objectivity as being what journalism is all about. 44.6% said objectivity was “difficult but possible. It separates the wheat from the chaff.” 27.6% chose the answer “transparency is the new objectivity.”

The resulting report says: “The Internet has bypassed the once highly regarded norms of gatekeepers at a news desk, and it now it seems to be challenging the long held model of objectivity in journalism.”

Spot.Us’s Sammer Bhuchar writes: “Increasingly, the idea of traditional objectivity is being challenged by this new, proactive age of media consumers. To those who challenge the ideal, it is an outdated standard that has crippled journalists from digging deep into stories.”

Bhuchar’s writeup includes some of the survey responses, including:

Survey respondent Robert McClure writes:

“No journalist is truly objective, if that term is meant to mean someone who has no opinions about the subjects he or she covers. Subjectivity starts right from the point at which a journalist chooses a subject to cover and goes right on through to who is interviewed, what quotations are selected, how the headline is written, and on and on. But what makes journalism different from other practices with which it is sometimes confused, such as PR or politics, is that journalists are in the business of *independent* verification of fact.”

Respondent Katie Lohrenz writes:

“I find writing by people who disclose and discuss their biases/backgrounds dramatically more compelling than sterile I-refuse-to-take-sides-so-decide-for-yourself writing. I think it’s possible to explain and analyze both sides of a story and fulfill a journalistic purpose without sitting on the fence.”

Respondent Amy Gahran writes:

“Basically, ‘objectivity’ in journalism began post WWII as a strategy to make news content more palatable to a broader advertiser base. That worked — and it helped enable newspaper consolidation in many cities. But the strategy took on a life of its own — and while it yielded some benefits, it’s a fundamentally not credible premise. Journalism is created by people, and people are not objective. As media has become multidirectional, it’s become ridiculous to try to ignore that reality. News organizations that choose a veneer of objectivity over the practice of transparency undermine their own credibility. The sad thing is, many news orgs cling to their veneer of objectivity because they think it builds credibility. They’re eating their own dog food.”