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Objectivity And All That

Kay Ayed reckons there’s no harm in combining informed opinion alongside information.

Over the years, it has become more and more accepted that objective journalism is better and more trustworthy than the subjective kind. But I don’t think this is necessarily the case.

Objective journalism requires the writer or reporter to simply ‘cut and paste’ the facts of any given news story without bending the truth, interpreting the facts, analysing patterns, or even passing judgement on any part of the story.

But we are surely overdue a reckoning on this. It ti time to assess how much is gained and lost by sticking to these conventions – or pretending to.

Firstly, is it possible for a person to be completely objective and neutral, with no vested interest in a particular party?

I think it is very rarely possible for journalists (especially those working for a mainstream media company) to have 100% objectivity towards any given story or topic. For example, Rupert Murdoch’s publications, such as The Sun, Sunday Times and The Times¬†all lean to the right, and so part of their house style is to avoid or diminish any negative news regarding the right wing.

Consequently, when journalists works for such newspapers, they will be conditioned to focus on stories defaming the left wing, even without realising it. A similar susceptibility exists in most if not all publications, regardless of their political stance. After all, before the concept of objectivity was even considered a general journalistic ethic, newspapers and other publications were openly and sometimes rabidly sectarian – and this way of working has never really been eradicated.

But how do we know that all opinions/judgements are biased? What if that is an opinion in itself?

Sometimes, a journalist may have worked in a specific field for so long that the substance of what they have come to know outweighs the tendency towards narrowly personal opinion. An informed opinion is developed by gathering and analysing evidence over the years; and at this point the journalist may make the transition to ‘political analyst’ – or some such title which recognises their significant expertise.

Yes, an opinion is an opinion no matter how informed it is. But that does not mean that carefully considered professional opinion is identical to the opinions of full time controversialists like Katie Hopkins.

Besides, I believe journalists have a bigger role than just to parrot what they are told, or repeat what they have seen. What we want from journalists is a more determined attempt to work out and come to understand what’s going on – and if that means allowing opinion alongside analysis, fair enough.



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