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英国杜伦大学finance专业83分论文范例:The Questionable Objectivity of Journalism

英国杜伦大学finance专业83分论文范例:The Questionable Objectivity of Journalism
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The Questionable Objectivity of Journalism

Introduction

Nowadays, objectivity is considered one of the key criteria of journalism. It has become the norm in news reporting. It is easy for people to forget that in fact the objectivity of news reporting was not widely emphasized until the 1920s (Streckfuss 1990). However, the definition of the highest standard of journalism has been evolving over time. Now comes the questioning of the possibility of upholding absolute objectivity in news reporting. Moreover, the doubt that whether maintaining objectivity can lead to the production of valuable news is surfacing.  The voice of advocacy for media subjectivity is increasing. One of the arguments of the advocacy for media subjectivity is that the meaning of news has to come from subjectivity. Media objectivity is an ideology and a doctrine that guides traditional news reporting. But in reality, media objectivity is flawed more or less. Each news organization will have its own political and economic interests that will influence its news reporting. The producers of media contents, the journalists, are not different than news readers in that they too live in a networked social environment.  What they see and hear will have impact on what they write. It is time for the media community to accept the very fact that journalism is by nature subjective. Journalists should present readers with facts they have discovered in an objective way. But at the same time, they should not avoid interpreting the news with their clearly-defined perspective. Only with those thoughtful perspectives can the news delivered to readers be insightful and thus meaningful.

 

Media objectivity: the overstated golden standard

The emphasis of media objectivity came under the backdrop of news reporting that was clearly driven by special interests. Therefore, the emergence of media objectivity was a result of calls for media ethics. As the research of Streckfuss (1990) found, originally it was the words like “unbiased” and “uncolored” to refer to media objectivity. One of the fundamental responsibilities of news media is to be the watchdogs of the society that make those policy makers accountable. Once it was clear that news reporting was under heavy influence of individuals or groups with strong political clout, the call for media objectivity from the public became stronger. In this sense, the call for media objectivity was aimed to wean news media off political influences so that they could serve the role of watchdog well. By no means was it meant to mandate news media to produce pieces of “colorless” news comprised of only facts.

 

But the emergence of media objectivity seemed to encourage the “hard news” paradigm. The “hard news” paradigm is a shared mindset in the journalism profession that defines the core meaning of objective news (Esser and Umbricht 2014). Under the mentality of the hard-news paradigm, professionalism in journalism entails rationality and procedural fairness (Esser and Umbricht 2014). Also journalists ought to detach their news writing from their political opinions (Esser and Umbricht 2014). Moreover, it defines journalism as “fact digging” work for the mass instead of serving the intellectual needs of circles of literary elites (Esser and Umbricht 2014). However, one important issue the hard-news paradigm missed is that not all the facts can be constructed to become news. News should be worth attention of the readership. One of the values of news is deviance, which can be achieved through the reporting of unusual events, novelty, or controversy. The deviance could be related to different factors, such as culture, social, or the frequency of the same kind of events (Pritchard and Hughes 2006). Simply by picking what to be considered deviant needs the injection of the opinions of journalists. Adding to the layers of selection criteria of candidates for news is the social significance of news. It, too, needs the judgment of journalists according to their perspectives. All these factors coming together make the existence of “hard news” hardly possible.

 

One of the strongest arguments for media objectivity is the professionalization of journalists. In this view, a journalist can only be considered professional when his reporting is politically unbiased. Ironically, the early motive for objective reporting was not to implement the ideology of professional responsibility, but to cater for a wide range of audience. As noted by Carey (1997), objective reporting became the core of American journalism during the rapid industrialization of America as media producers found it to their best commercial interests to serve a wide spectrum of politically heterogeneous audiences. But apparently such an interpretation of the professionalism in journalism runs into conflict with the social responsibility of journalism. By suppressing their own political perspectives in order to serve an audience as large as possible, journalists might not be able to fulfill the roles of watchdog, agenda setter, and gatekeeper. Proponents of media objectivity for professionalism also argue that by being objective journalists are able to incite broad social changes (Maras 2013). But if being objective in reporting means leaving unfiltered and unprocessed facts to the audience, journalists are in fact retreating themselves from social and political movements. Truly professionalized journalists ought to be active in finding out what are newsworthy, instead of being passive in collecting facts for media consumption.

 

In regard to the responsibility in journalism, there is more to be said about the negative impact of being strictly “objective”. During the prime of media objectivity, it appeared that objectivity is the foundation of the responsibilities of journalism. But Glasser (1984) argues that objectivity exactly erodes the very foundation of responsible journalism. There are no absolutely objective evidences for news reporting, neither objective sources. And yet the emphasis of objective reporting forced reporters to rely on those seemly “objective” sources like those from the government. As a result, objective reporting reinforces the already strong voice of the establishment and ignores the voices of those disadvantaged (Glasser 1984). By this way, the press primarily serves the role of a propaganda machine instead of a watchdog for the public.

 

Objective reporting can also have erosive effects on the independence of individual reporters, as well as their creativity. Objectivity is like a doctrine imposed by the news organizations. It sets up the limits of reporting, and the limits of opining. Individual journalists would be left without passion and perspectives in their reporting (Glasser 1984). Without passion, they are no different that communicators dispatched by their organizations, and they would simply repeat the messages of the ruling class. Without perspectives, the facts they collect would be unorganized and lifeless. Having a perspective would allow a journalist to go deep in exploring a topic, to uncover valuable information. Without a perspective, a journalist can only see what the audiences see.

 

Need for media subjectivity

First, the entire news media community has to confront themselves with the very fact that all current news media are biased in news reporting. The political positions of news organizations and the journalists are intentionally or unintentionally injected in the news contents. Nowadays, the complaints that media are biased are often heard in public discussions. It should be clarified that media subjectivity is not equivalent to media bias. Being bias means supporting the courses of certain political parties. Being subjective means that news organizations or journalists explicitly express their positions on certain issues. Unfortunately, many people continue to blur the distinction between these two. As news organizations who are championing the causes of some political parties are not considered socially responsible, the call for media objectivity grows. Meanwhile, media bias has become a norm and the time has come to judge whether it is as detrimental to the society as it was once widely assumed to be. For some reporting that is deeply involved in politics, the reporters will inevitably face a choice of endorsing or repudiating the course of a political party that the reported issue concerns. Moreover, many biases are deeply rooted in certain segments of the society. News organizations, and their journalists, all come from their own segments of society so that many of their biases are rather naturally born. As the people of a nation, they also have some biases widely shared among them. For example, generally Americans are more pro-capitalist, anti-communist, supportive of a version of minimal government, etc. (D’Allesio and Allen 2000). News organizations commonly practice three types of biases. The first is “gatekeeping bias” by selecting certain types of stories to report (D’Allesio and Allen 2000). The second type is giving certain political courses more coverage over others (D’Allesio and Allen 2000). The third type is interjecting their own opinions in the stories (D’Allesio and Allen 2000). While it is up to debate whether all those biases will necessarily downgrade the quality of journalism, a question the proponents of media objectivity should ask themselves is that whether it is reasonably possible to get rid of all those biases.

 

Opinion journalism, as a new paradigm of journalism, is increasingly under spotlight. One of the reasons behind the movement of opinion journalism is the increasing participation of readers in news media production. In the digital age opinion journalism takes advantage of the interactive feature of online news production (Manosevitch and Walker 2009). In the new form of online news media, the deliberation of news is no longer confined with a small circle of editors and journalists. The news are the results of public discourses of large scales. Under this circumstance, journalists will encounter much more opinions in reporting. It would be unrealistic for them to balance all the opposing opinions and not to take any side. Only by taking sides and explicitly stating their positions can journalists be more involved in public discourse. Deep involvement is needed if insightful stories were to written.

 

It should be acknowledged that the way of writing is not objective. Humans are not objectivity-driven, so do their writing. The choices of words in a story can make the story favorable to one party or another. In his letter to the New York Times, Glenn Greenwald defends his call for opinion journalism by arguing that the avoidance of some sensitive words can only serve the interest of those powerful and privileged (Keller 2013). If subjectivity in journalism is something journalists cannot avoid, then it is their responsibility to use subjective reporting appropriately for the objectives of journalism. Media subjectivity will never equate to falsifying or skewing some undeniable evidences. Instead it allows journalists to look into the issue from a pre-select perspective so that the news produced will be of interest for all or certain audiences.

 

It should always to be kept in mind that the primary role of an independent press is to challenge the arguments of the authorities. Therefore, the constraint that journalists are not allowed to express their opinions will eventually erode the power of an independent press.

Given the fact that news media would have to cover politicians and government officials on what they have to say about issues that are important to the public, the missing of opinions from journalists would severely undermine the diversity of opinions in the press. One argument for restricting the range of voices is that the limited resources of media should be better used to cover those who are the more reliable sources of information (Bennett 1990). Such an argument implicitly assumes that the opinions of journalists are not worthy and can only be distractive. With the voices of journalists suppressed, the voices of the government will monopolize the press, threatening the very foundation of an independent press.

 

Journalism is essentially a form of activism. It fights on behalf of those otherwise voiceless. As Glenn Greenwald puts it, every journalistic choice embraces subjective assumptions that might support one party and challenge another (Keller 2013). Taken it broadly, the nationalistic support news media express during times of wars or sports events is a sort of biased activism. The commitment to the advocated courses brings in passion in journalism. Passion is the driver of the sense to detect stories that are valuable, and the astuteness to parse statements. Activism can coexist with the pursuit for accurate coverage too. Being active in journalism is about actively collecting evidences that support one’s courses. Those evidences still have to be indisputable. Instead of using the limited resources to disseminate the messages of authorities, an activism-driven news organization would devote itself to collecting evidences that would push its agenda forward.

 

Last but not the least, the audiences of press value the integrity of news organizations. Journalists have to show their honesty in reporting the accurate stories to their audiences. The best way to show honesty might not be to pretend that they do not have any personal opinions on the issues they are reporting. The audiences have the right to know from what perspective the stories they received were reported. Being transparent is one of the standards for news media. On the matter of reporting subjectivity, news organizations need to be transparent too.

 

The shaping of journalistic perspective

If journalists were allowed to take positions on the issues they report, then comes the question of how they shape their own opinions. Journalists, like ordinary citizens, live and work in a networked environment. Therefore, their political opinions will be influenced by the people within their social networks. Journalists will have opportunities to build a vast network of contacts for their journalistic work. The people they choose to contact with for certain issues will nevertheless influence their opinions on the issues. In other words, to produce accurate news stories they have to get closers to the subjects, but when they are so close they cannot maintain the objectivity in reporting. 

 

The framework of journalism is slowly moving away from the model of delivering information on a linear media system to a model of reporting from a relationship-based network (Singer 2008). The days when news stories came directly from news organizations and were digested by audiences without further discussion seem long gone. Now the messages of journalists interact with each other. Journalists are also active consumers of news. They read the news stories produced by their fellow journalists, and make insightful comments on them. The ensuing discussions will influence how they go out and find news stories next time and write up the stories. Therefore, in regards to news content it will be unrealistic to ignore such a bias caused by the professional networks of journalists. In fact, such a phenomenon should not be viewed negatively. The absorption of the opinions of others, especially fellow journalists, can make the media contents produced by journalists more pluralistic, i.e., reflecting plurality of viewpoints. The consumers of news will benefit more from this approach as they will know what kind of person the journalist is who wrote the article they are reading. News readers will find it easier to have interaction with journalists if their personal perspectives are clear.

 

The emergence of online media gives media consumers much more power to challenge the traditional role of news organizations as gatekeeper of news (Harper 2005). Journalists, as media consumers themselves, are best positioned to challenge the news produced by other journalists. The professional networks they have give them platforms to challenge each other on the credibility and significance of news produced. But to bring up opinions to challenge each other, journalists have to have strong personal opinions and be able to express them freely. By allowing subjectivity in news reporting and the ensuing discussions, the media community will be able to produce truly worthy news that represent plurality of perspectives.

 

Then there is another network that exists for each journalist, the private network. In the United States it was not until the 1980s sociology researchers started to focus on the demographics of practicing journalists in the country. Before, journalists were usually given a mythic image in the public as those who worked behind a curtain and were expected to be the objective communicators of news stories. Lichter and colleagues (1986 cited in Reese 2001) found that journalists from the so-called “elite” media were much more democratic-leaning and more likely to non-religious. It is hard to deny the effects of personal upbringing on the perspectives of journalists. Given the undeniable influence of personal network on journalistic work, the better approach is not to pretend it does not exist, but to encourage the expression of personal perspective.

 

Conclusion

The journalism framework is constantly changing. The ideology of objective journalism, once credited for consolidating the role of news media as watchdogs of the society, is becoming a hindering stone in the development of modern journalism. The truth is that objective journalism is a misleading ideology which is unrealistic. The fundamental responsibilities of journalism demand that journalism has to be subjective. As agenda setters, news producers are expected to raise the awareness of public on certain issues. To accomplish that journalists cannot be simply communicators of known information. They have to exert their critical judgment to select stories that are newsworthy. Otherwise, they can only produce those “lifeless” news stories that repeat the propaganda of the government. Moreover, the standards of objectivity are more of a constraint imposed by the government on journalists. Such a constraint weakens the creativity and passion of journalists, making them more difficult to discern the hidden stories. As a result, their independence as alternative sources of information is also compromised by the objectivity doctrine.

 

Given the way that journalists produce media contents will never be absolutely objective, the better approach would be embrace subjective journalism by allowing journalists to express their political opinions freely. In the era of new media, the production of news stories takes more involvement of media consumers. Journalists can no longer disregard the opinions of audiences. They, too, have to carry their own opinions into the discussion with audiences to form more insightful news stories. Opinion journalism is replacing the traditional “hard news” journalism thanks to the new information technology. In the days when traditional news media dominated the landscape of press and gave independent voices little room, it was easy to forget that the fundamental role of journalism is to bring up the voice of those voiceless. It is time to revive the role of activism of journalism, to give journalists and audiences stronger voices to challenge the authorities.

 

Subjective journalism will take advantage of the diversity of backgrounds of journalists. Journalists come from ordinary people. Their diverse personal backgrounds can make their reporting better represent the interests and opinions of ordinary people. Journalists are nevertheless networked with their fellow journalists, the subjects they are reporting, and the audiences of their news stories. When journalists are allowed to express their perspectives freely, they will be able to bring in plurality of opinions from their networks into the news stores and provide valuable insights.

 

 

References

Bennett, W. L. 1990. Toward a theory of press‐state relations in the United States.Journal of communication, 40, 103-127.

Carey, J. 1997. Community, public, and journalism. Mixed news: The public/civic/communitarian journalism debate, 1-15.

D'Alessio, D. & Allen, M. 2000. Media bias in presidential elections: a meta‐analysis.Journal of communication, 50, 133-156.

Esser, F. & Umbricht, A. 2014. The Evolution of Objective and Interpretative Journalism in the Western Press Comparing Six News Systems since the 1960s. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 91, 229-249.

Glasser, T. L. 1984. Objectivity precludes responsibility. The Quill, 72, 13-16.

Harper, C. 2005. Journalism in a digital age. Health, 34, 29.

Keller, B. 2013. Is Glenn Greenwald the future of news. New York Times, 27 October.

Manosevitch, E. & Walker, D. Reader comments to online opinion journalism: a space of public deliberation.  International Symposium on Online Journalism, 2009. 1-30.

Maras, S. 2013. Objectivity in journalism, John Wiley & Sons.

Pritchard, D. & Hughes, K. D. 1997. Patterns of deviance in crime news. Journal of Communication, 47, 49-67.

Reese, S. D. 2001. Understanding the global journalist: A hierarchy-of-influences approach. Journalism Studies, 2, 173-187.

Singer, J. B. 2008. The journalist in the network. A Shifting Rationale for the Gatekeeping Role and the Objectivity Norm, Trípodos, 61-76.

Streckfuss, R. 1990. Objectivity in journalism: A search and a reassessment. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 67, 973-983.

 

 

 

 

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