Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Objective vs. “Fair and Balanced”: How the Press Fails Us


Sept. 9, 2016

There is a crisis in our journalism, and it’s something that has to be taken care of right now. I don’t know what is being taught in journalism classes these days, but given that I spent the better part of a year working in the heart of a big city newspaper’s newsroom in the 1970s and most of what I see today would not have been allowed back then, something has changed, to be sure. And it is not to our benefit. The news media cannot be trusted any longer.

The key to all good journalism is context. That is their main purpose. Of course, they should be reporting facts, but then there’s the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of every story. Without that, the reporter has no purpose. Re-writing a press release so that it fits into a certain space is called copy writing for a reason; it’s not journalism. It is also not journalism to simply dump a few thousand or a few million pages of documents on the public; the journalism part is doing the leg work and the research necessary to explain to the public what they mean and why they’re important. And no; “we report, you decide” is also not journalism. If you are reporting properly, then we shouldn’t have to interpret or “decide” what the documents mean. People like Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and David Sirota (and most of the professional left) are not journalists. Hell, this blog is not journalism; the only difference is, I’m honest enough to admit it. They are obviously just providing the Internet with click-bait, which I do not do. I’d like everyone to click, but I refuse to write things just to make people want to.

I will get into this a lot more in coming weeks and months, but right now, I want to talk about the concept of objectivity.

For some stupid reason, too many news organizations seem to believe that objectivity is a goal, which is laudable. On the other hand, I’m not sure they know what objectivity is, exactly. I say that because many news organizations seem to think “objectivity” is all about treating all sides the same. They seem to mistake “fair and balanced” (a notable concept that Fox News has bastardized until it has become meaningless) for “objective reporting and it doesn’t get any dumber than that. “Objective reporting” is about reporting only fact while trying to avoid the subjectivity with which most humans look at just about everything. Objectivity should be the ultimate goal for journalists, but they should know that objectivity is rarely “fair.”


We need a press that tells the truth, period. “Fair and balanced” news is the last thing we need. If someone is lying, say they’re lying. If someone has accused them of something provably false, then report that someone has made the accusation, of course, but unless you also report that you know the allegations to be false or unprovable, you have not done your job, journalists.

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