TITLE

The Inadequacy of Objectivity as a Touchstone

AUTHOR(S)
Overholser, Geneva
PUB. DATE
December 2004
SOURCE
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p53
SOURCE TYPE
Periodical
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
This article comments on the era of journalism in the U.S. Certainly journalism will survive. Indeed, it could even thrive as a result of very real challenges as of December 2004. Journalists need neither fear nor denounce the proliferation of punditry and attitude. Rather, as the media landscape teems ever more vigorously with partisanship and shout shows, infotainment, 24-hour-a-day repetitiousness and the near-anarchy of the Web world, journalism has a fine opportunity: To define itself in opposition to others. In the process, journalism could gain much-needed courage and clarity. In both cases, political engagement has been higher than here in the era of objective journalism. That same desirable result might well be repeating itself here today. But objectivity as a touchstone has grown worse than useless. For one thing, it is inadequate: Journalism has for decades been characterized in substantial part by interpretative and investigative and analytical reporting. To the extent that objectivity still holds sway, it often produces a report bound in rigid orthodoxy, a deplorably narrow product of conventional thinking. The cowardly, credulous and provincial coverage leading up to the Iraq War was a spectacular example. This orthodoxy also leaves out huge sectors of the population. Whatever the poverty of thinking of those in power, their views and actions are seen as legitimate, while thoughts and experiences of others are ignored. But if objectivity has become an ineffective and even harmful guide, it remains an extremely effective cudgel for those who wish to discredit the messenger on any story they disagree with. And the anticipation of these bludgeonings has produced a yet more craven media.
ACCESSION #
15509033

 

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