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Essay about Objectivity in Journalism

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Objectivity in Journalism

Merriam Webster defines objectivity as expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations. Objectivity, as defined by the school of media ethics, means standing so far from the community that you see all events and all viewpoints as equally distant and important, or unimportant for that matter. It is employed by giving equal weight to all viewpoints--or, if not, giving all an interesting twist, within taste. The result is a presentation of facts in a true non-partisan manner, and then standing back to "let the reader decide" which view is true.
By going about it this way, we are defining objectivity not by the way we go about gathering and interpreting the news, but by what we actually put in the paper. It can be measured out by allocating so many lines for this group, and so many lines for that group. To be fair, we should spread out our resources as evenly as possible.
The critics get a lot to chew on when that is the definition of objectivity. One form of reaction is to say, "Objectivity is impossible!" No matter how we spread our resources, we'll never get it right. We might as well be honest, and listen to our subjective inner voices, and write and report from a neutral point of view. Some journalists who think that way will surely rely on public journalism as an excuse to paint with a biased brush.
Of course it is impossible for a journalist to be completely objective because journalists are human and humans are subjective by nature. It is possible, however, for journalists to strive to be objective. A journalist may not like the Ku Klux Klan or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes but must understand ...


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... journalists ignore at their own risk.
The goal of public journalism is to create a learning type of community. A community that discusses issues, not just based on emotion, but based on facts about how things work. Switching from a traditional platform of journalistic objectivity to public journalism may not be a bad thing if we can use objectivity in our journalistic methods. It's a better standard anyway, and it can keep people honest.
So we shouldn't throw out public journalism as an approach. Investigative reporting and editing has its place. The focus given to us by public journalism can keep the rewards of investigative reporting and editing from being lost in the midst of information overload. Public journalism and investigative journalism need one another, and if we realize that we have a chance of preserving our beloved First Amendment traditions.


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