Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Role of Objectivity in Journalism

       Objectivity, as a general term, is the ability to perceive something while keeping one’s own personal opinions, beliefs, or emotions separate. Objectivity, as defined by the school of media ethics, means standing so far from the community that you see all events and viewpoints as equally distant and important, or unimportant.
       Journalists have a responsibility to distinguish personal opinions from professional work. In doing so, the result is a presentation of facts in a more genuinely objective manner, allowing people to make their own decisions. PEW Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism identified the central purpose of journalism as providing citizens with accurate and reliable information needed to function in a free society, and identified journalist’s first loyalty to citizens.
       A prominent, and reasonably modern societal problem, is purpose. Too many people lack understanding regarding their purpose at work, in a family or community, and even regarding who they are as a person. Even those who have gained this knowledge often lose that understanding.
       If September 11th taught the public any one thing regarding journalism, it should have taught people to value the work that honest journalists do for the sake of a better-informed society. Thousands of journalists proudly represented their profession on September 11th. Even the Wall Street Journal  miraculously managed to print a paper, despite the fact that just that morning, their newsroom had been blown up. On that day, journalists were reminded of their purpose. They set their purpose in sight and provided the public with all the information they had, regardless of personal circumstances and emotions.
       Although difficult, it is possible for journalists to have opinions and preserve their professional duty if they keep their purpose in mind and maintain allegiance with citizens. In doing so objectivity will be more easily attained because objectivity is what the public needs to make legitimate decisions.
       No one can deny the fact that objectivity is not easily attained, and arguably impossible to obtain. Even the most evenhanded journalists are subject to personal bias because even the most evenhanded journalists are still just human beings, and human beings are naturally subjective. It is completely attainable, however, for journalists to strive to be objective.
       The discussion, regarding objectivity in journalism, is ongoing. Society struggles with the notion that there is a truth, instead thinking that truth is relative. It’s important for journalist’s to strive for objectivity. This means reporting on something possibly conflicting with personal views, or deciding not to report on something that conflicts with personal views because you do not believe you can uphold your purpose as a journalist otherwise. Regardless, the end purpose remains the same. Personal emotions and opinion do not have a place in objective journalistic writing.
       Objectivity is like unto the most valuable virtue in journalism. It is something that you are constantly trying to achieve, but always seem to fall short of. The real core of journalism is objectivity: seeing the whole truth and being fair about it. Maybe this is an old fashioned perspective. Regardless, objectivity is the old-fashioned virtue that has to be respected above all else, even a well-reasoned opinion.

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