Friday, November 26, 2010

Objectivity as journalistic integrity

There is a real debate going on in the press, a conflict over who should control information and the definition of journalism.

Listen to this dialog on NPR's Talk of the Nation, from November 16th, 2010.

The bias of the professional journalist is the intent to be 'objective'. Objectivity is not an achievable goal; it is a professional standard, an ideal to which we aspire. (-MER)

"The difference between journalism and opinion is that basic idea, that unlike the rest of us, journalists start by recognizing their biases and conduct their business trying to prove themselves wrong, opening their minds to different ways of looking at things. That's why journalism is a valuable civic institution that forces us to consider the merits of every point of view." That email, from Travis.

"I really think that objectivity is something that can be found in the news. It is not being found today. It's not even being sought after.

I think what's happening is, is that information - they looked at the news people as just being what they're seeing now, like models with a microphone, but there was testing of information. And with the advent of the Internet and so many ways to reach so many people, no matter how extreme a person's position is, or no matter how perverted a person's thoughts may be, there's always a group of people around the world that they can connect with to validate themselves. And that didn't exist before. And I'm really concerned about our country.

I think the one professor - the professor that's on here, that speaks about the profitability, that it's not bad in information, well, one of the things in business we know is that time is money. And good information requires time. And so often now, what's being presented is information that is found out to be false, it's not retracted, or it gets lost so that the people are not getting the information they need to be responsible citizens." - David (NPR Caller)

The provenance of the information

TED KOPPEL: (on internet technology) I don't see new hope for journalism, I see new hope for the exchange of information. But you haven't responded to my part, which is unless one knows the provenance of the information, unless I know who's putting the information out, I can't judge the validity of that.

The utmost responsibility of any journalist

"What I think would be better for journalists as a whole is to be able to follow a story, follow up with a story, like a previous caller had mentioned, and be able to really go in depth, get as many interviews as you can, and be able to publish it knowing that you have every single fact straight. That, I believe, should be the utmost responsibility of any journalist - is to first check your facts, then perhaps go back, check objectivity if you know you're not intentionally already trying for it." - Jason (NPR Caller)

TED KOPPEL: I think the country is in dreadful shape right now. The economy is in terrible shape. Unemployment is in terrible shape. We are engaged in two overseas wars. We have a deficit that is unbelievable. And if there is one thing we desperately need in this country, it is the ability to come together to debate the issues without rancor or partisanship.

Prof. JARVIS: People can share news and information themselves. And then we, as journalists, have to ask where we put our precious resources to bring the most value - not to do the same stuff, not to be a stenographer, as Keith Olbermann said, but instead to bring that higher value.

Prof. JARVIS: The problem is, it's made too simplistic. It's made simply right and simply left, and we're much more complex than that. But having a discussion, having an argument, indeed, is what makes up a democracy - not having something just fed us from a centralized place.

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