Thursday, March 3, 2011


A post on the Online Journalism Blog and interview with David Weinberger raised an interesting question - Objectivity Has Changed - Why Hasn't Journalism?

I agree with the premise "that sustaining the appearance of objectivity is unfeasible and unstainable, and that transparency is a much more realistic aim." One can argue that there has never really been objective journalism.

As a Great Lakes marine historian I'm aware of the changes in journalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Traditionally in newspapers there has been a conservative paper, a liberal paper and sometimes even a socialist paper. When you read a particular paper you knew you were reading a particular bias.

Toronto, where the tradition lives on, has four major newspapers: the National Post is very conservative, the Globe & Mail is right of center, the Toronto Star is left of center and the Toronto Sun is very liberal. This has carried on into t. v.: think of Fox News for example, which is very conservative.

And it's not just in the particular culture of an organization, but also in how news is chosen and what views get aired. For example the local Toronto station of CTV recently aired a story about people complaining on the higher price of gas. The underlying bias was that higher prices are bad and lower prices are good. They didn`t explore the argument that higher gas prices might actually be good for people and the economy.

Objectivity was originally raised in a vain attempt to present both sides of the story, but sometimes there isn`t two or more sides. I have yet to hear anyone in the mainstream media argue, for example, that child abuse is really good for children. The assumption, and rightly so, is that it is bad.

This gets down to scrapping the farce that there is objectivity and instead focus on transparency so that your audience can make up their own mind about a particular story and why it was chosen over another one or over a different angle. It also offers your audience an opportunity to further explore a particular story even if they agree with it and your bias. This is what I was trying to get at in a previous post that compared Behind The Story with Washington Week.

I`ll return to this at a later time.

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