Transparency Vs. Objectivity

New media certainly seems to be more biased than traditional journalism. Bloggers have a clear point of view and are not afraid to express their opinions, whereas bigger news organizations remain objective at all times… but are they really being objective? No one is capable of remaining objective as they take in more information; it’s human nature to develop a point of view, even if you choose not to express it. Is it truly better to claim you’re unbiased if, in reality, you’re simply avoiding your point of view? Objectivity is almost impossible, as points of view will inevitably come out in speech, tone, body language or phrasing of an issue. Would it be more honest, and therefore more fair, to simply state what your point of view is before discussing a topic?

Some would argue that transparency is the new objectivity, claiming that it would be better to acknowledge any hidden biases before moving on to discussion. “Objectivity without transparency increasingly will look like arrogance. And then foolishness,” the article states. Perhaps the most important message to get from this is that the two values go hand in hand. Objectivity is an unreachable goal, and journalists who don’t use disclaimers regarding their personal opinions might end up writing (or speaking) with a slant if they’re not careful. However, transparency alone does not make a writer believable. The audience still needs the facts; research, evidence and quotes from knowledgable sources. One without the other would be simply ineffective. “The problem with objectivity is that it tries to show what the world looks like from no particular point of view, which is like wondering what something looks like in the dark.”

Another issue with objectivity is that it’s becoming more and more easy to find out how journalists feel about certain issues. With social media becoming less of a simple trend and more of a necessity, every good journalist has some sort of online presence. Some have separate accounts; those for professional updates and others for personal musings, but even still, it isn’t hard to hunt down the personal pages that are most likely linked to the professional accounts either directly or indirectly. An article from the World Association of Newspapers reminds us that “all this social media activity means that it is becoming ever harder to deny the fact that journalists are people. Shocking, I know, but it’s true. Journalists are people – and people are not objective.”

Some journalists like Jeff Greenfield of Yahoo News chose to remain more objective than others. He stated that he didn’t vote  for years in order to remain unbiased. Does this mean that he was unbiased? Most likely not. Simply because he didn’t express his opinions does not mean he didn’t have them. The issue is certainly one worth debating. Is it fair to ask journalists to do something virtually impossible by removing any sort of opinion within them? “In the long run, it’s worth asking what we can gain by allowing reporters to be human beings while they do their jobs, instead of only asking what we lose by doing so,” journalist Matthew Ingram points out in the New York Times article. What’s the best balance one can achieve between these values? It may take quite a lot of debate before we can decide that for sure.

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