7.2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All Sides

Most of us are taught that objectivity in journalism means reporting "unvarnished facts in a very neutral manner" (Williams & Stroud, 2020, para. 1). The reality is and always has been quite different. Historically, newspapers had partisan political perspectives and only when the demands of not alienating readers who bought the paper did many journalists claim they were objectively reporting events.

Newspaper with a heading "Extra Breaking News" Image by geralt is under Pixabay License

Today, with news available 24/7 every day of the year, print newspapers, television news shows, online news sites, and social media platforms do not all present the news in the same way or even as objectively agreed upon and accurate facts.

The news we read and view, concluded the authors of the report Truth Decay, is a combination of facts and opinions and neutrality and bias packaged to appeal to different audiences (young, old, affluent, working class) and, in some cases, partisan political perspectives (Democrats, Republicans, progressives, conservatives). The same event is likely to be covered differently by Fox News, MSNBC, The New York Times, and the Washington Post.

Infographic: beyond_fake_news.png Infographic: Beyond Fake News | CC BY-NC 4.0

At the same time, there are those who contend that objectivity is a false concept and reporters should openly state their own points of view for readers and viewers to embrace or reject. For example, rather than give equal space in a news story to climate deniers or Big Lie proponents, these journalists should expose misinformation and untruths wherever they find them. For these reporters, it is necessary to replace objectivity (the term was removed from journalism's Code of Ethics in 1996) with "skepticism" and make online and print journalism, in the words of Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, "a discipline of verification" (The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, Three Rivers Press, 2017).

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In the following activities you will practice evaluating the news from different sides; that is, from different points of view and contrasting political perspectives.

Activity 1Evaluate the News From All Sides

Activity 2: Write the News From All Sides

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Building Democracy for All eBook

Building Democracy for All: History of Newspapers, Then and Now

Connecting to the Standards

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