Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 1:35am
THE TWILIGHT OF OBJECTIVITY
[SOURCE: Washington Post, AUTHOR: Michael Kinsley]
[Commentray] According to the New York Times, this demonstrates "that what works in cable television news is not an objective analysis of the day's events" but "a specific point of view on a sizzling-hot topic." Nicholas Lemann made the same point in a recent New Yorker profile of Bill O'Reilly. Cable, he wrote "is increasingly a medium of outsize, super-opinionated franchise personalities." It might even be a healthy development for American newspapers to abandon the conceit of objectivity. This is not unknown territory. Most of the world's newspapers, in fact, already make no pretense of objectivity in the American sense. Opinion journalism can be more honest than objective-style journalism, because it doesn't have to hide its point of view. All observations are subjective. Writers freed of artificial objectivity can try to determine the whole truth about their subject and then tell it whole to the world. Their "objective" counterparts have to sort their subjective observations into two arbitrary piles: truths that are objective as well, and truths that are just an opinion. That second pile of truths cannot be published, except perhaps as a quote from someone else. Without the pretense of objectivity, the fundamental journalist's obligation of factual accuracy would remain. Opinion journalism brings new ethical obligations as well. These can be summarized in two words: intellectual honesty. Are you writing or saying what you really think? Have you tested it against the available counterarguments? Will you stand by an expressed principle in different situations, when it leads to an unpleasing conclusion? Are you open to new evidence or an argument that might change your mind? Do you retain at least a tiny, healthy sliver of a doubt about the argument you choose to make? Much of today's opinion journalism, especially on TV, is not a great advertisement for the notion that American journalism could be improved by more opinion and less effort at objectivity. But that's because the conditions under which much opinion journalism is practiced today make honesty harder, and doubt practically impossible.
- Why we need advocacy journalism
- Dreyfuss campaigns against "shaped news"
- An Independent Newspaper
- President Obama Memorializes Cronkite, Challenges Journalists
- In Early Newspapers, Only 'Mr. Silky Milky' Would Be Impartial
- The Watchdog Awakes
- New Power Seen for Mexico's Media Giant
- On Opinion Page, a Lobby's Hand Is Often Unseen
- New models will allow investigative journalism to thrive
- PBS and Us
- Are Silicon Valley tech bloggers truly objective?
- A License for Local Reporting
- Obama Says Fox News Promotes 'Destructive' Viewpoint
- Mainstream media biased against 'flailing' Romney? Four points to consider.
- Palin says media "censors" her