Objectivity vs. advocacy

Interesting discussion on one of the fundamentals of journalism at The New York Times. Is objectivity an outdated concept (and it is a relatively recent invention of  modern journalism), or should we allow the opinions of the journalist to become part of the reporting process?

Glenn Greenwald, who’s broken a number of major stories from the information gathered by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, believes objectivity’s time has come and is an excuse for reporters to write their opinions into their stories from under cover. Bill Keller disagrees, saying it’s impartiality that allows journalists to get closer to the truth.

There’s elements of value to both. Personally, I think the objectivity/neutrality/impartiality debate is a slightly imperfect one, and draws premises from an incorrect conflation of balance and fairness.

Balance — in which equal time and space is allotted to all parties and points of view — is an external condition almost impossible to fulfill, even in the best of circumstances.

Fairness, however, is an internal standard that merely offers equal opportunity to all voices, parties and points of view. It’s their responsibility to take you up on it.

 

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