Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I read an editorial in eye magazine on the weekend about the ridiculous notion of objectivity and bias in the media. It points out the lengths that journalists and news agencies will go to in order to preserve a facade of objectivity.
"Clinging relentlessly to a misguided idea of what constitutes objectivity, political reporters in the mainstream are forever hesitant to point out patent absurdities. Instead, they strive for balance, a he-said/she-said structure that isn't often satisfactory: if a White House press briefing told reporters that the White House was in fact black, the reporters doing stand-ups outside the clearly white building would quote colour experts and lay out the 'sharply divided opinion' on the subject."
Ridiculous of course. But then I considered that it might be a little dangerous to go against the White House.

However, the he-said/she-said is getting on my nerves. Case in point, this story:
"A Dutch professor became the first recipient of a new Swedish science prize in the field of medical education research, the awarding body said Monday."
Now, why can't they just write about the FACT that a Dutch professor (Dutch clearly being the most intelligent people in the world) won this award? Why are they reporting that someone SAID that he won? Are they so afraid that they might be wrong? Are they saying that the REAL piece of news here is that an awarding body made an announcement?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that this journalist is any way at fault. Even had they written a different teaser paragraph, I know their editor would have rewritten it this way. I remember the formula writing that I learned in first-year newspaper reporting. I remember Joyce drilling this formula into my head and then understanding why it was that I found news stories to be so unimaginative.

Sometimes I'm really glad that I'm not in journalism.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are way too idealistic. Every media company has a core audience which they report to. All media sources have either a liberal or conservative bias. They report on what their readers/viewers want to hear and see. Companies try to market themselves in a manner that would maximize advertising revenue and subscribers. Since media companies are beholden to their advertisers and readers/viewers, independent and unbiased reporting is only an utopian dream. Journalism/reporting is extremely subjective. What journalists/editors report is their perception of the facts. While you may disagree with a journalists/editor's viewpoint, it does not mean that their reporting skills are wanting. You should just accept the fact that you disagree with the journalist's reporting. If you disagree with a particular newspaper's report, go find yourself another newspaper that you do agree with. The breadth of reporting is vast. Surely, you can find a media outlet that doesn't irritate you.

Anyways, this is my contribution to giving you some peace in life.

Cathy said...

You wrote:
"You are way too idealistic. Every media company has a core audience which they report to. All media sources have either a liberal or conservative bias. They report on what their readers/viewers want to hear and see. Companies try to market themselves in a manner that would maximize advertising revenue and subscribers. Since media companies are beholden to their advertisers and readers/viewers, independent and unbiased reporting is only an utopian dream. Journalism/reporting is extremely subjective."

Thanks for pointing out the obvious about the media. (Have I never mentioned that I'm a journalism graduate?) I'm quite well aware of the concept of the media as a business.

However, I'm not sure how you can call me "idealistic". I never even hinted that the media were objective. In fact, I wrote about the ridiculous lengths they go to in order to "preserve a facade of objectivity". Perhaps you wanted to say that I'm idealistic because I wish that we lived in a world in which a reporter could actually report a fact without prefacing it by saying "Mr. Important Expert says..."

You wrote:
"What journalists/editors report is their perception of the facts."

Actually, I would be happy with the idea that they're reporting their perception of the facts. However, while they ARE in fact doing that by choosing what story to write, whom to speak with, and what quotes to choose, my point is that they try to HIDE the fact that this is their perception of facts by appearing to write the


You wrote:
"While you may disagree with a journalists/editor's viewpoint, it does not mean that their reporting skills are wanting. You should just accept the fact that you disagree with the journalist's reporting."

Should I?

First of all, I don't think one should just accept the status quo.

Secondly, as I said, I do not disagree with the journalist's reporting per se. I disagree with a system that is set up such that the he-said/she-said format is the only editor-accepted format. I did in fact say that I did not find fault with the journalist, and I certainly did not imply that they are a less-than-competent writer. I only find fault with the system.

You wrote:
"Surely, you can find a media outlet that doesn't irritate you."

So far, no luck. Well, I do enjoy the program on TV called "Daily Planet", but that's likely because I feel like I'm actually learning something useful, not because I delude myself that they, too, don't have a bias.

You wrote:
"Anyways[sic], this is my contribution to giving you some peace in life."

Thanks for the offer, but this doesn't contribute to the peace in my life (whether you'd made a point valid to my argument or not).

If you want to bring me some peace, you might not want to start out with the sentance "You are way too idealistic." That doesn't really work for me.