Objectivity – achieving the impossible

The concept of objectivity is controversial in the field of journalism. This is because it’s impossible to write with 100% objectivity.

A friend of mine attempted, as her senior project, to write a completely objective newsletter. She then surveyed a sample audience to see if she had managed her goal. She hadn’t – though she got an A on the project anyway.

 Why? Because even the most basic of news involves entirely too many facts to include everything there is to know about a subject. Writers choose what to include and what not to include. This inevitably gives the article a slant. The idea is to make the slant as un-noticeable as possible when dealing in news. But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Even if you take a fairly objective source, say CNN, and look at an article almost completely made up of fact, like one on the recent FED slash of interest rates, there is a slant. The empathizes here is on how the cut is the biggest in 24 years – and how more cuts are expected. Surely, that’s not all there is to say about the cuts. When about.com discussed the same topic, they focused on how it would effect YOU – another slant. Even though both articles are about the same thing – the FED cuts – they approach the topic from different angles, different slants.

The difference, of course, between these and something like blogs on investment are how obvious the slant is. Blogs or opinion pieces also allow others to comment, and open up discussion on the facts.

Despite their differences in the level of objectivity, none of the above articles are completely objective. This is why objectivity is so controversial. If someone ever manages to WRITE with 100% objectivity, then who would want to read it?

Explore posts in the same categories: publishing, Writing for the Media

2 Comments on “Objectivity – achieving the impossible”

  1. Karina Says:

    I must say I didn’t really look at it like that before…but you do seem to have a point. Even when just giving the facts, theres always something that you will purposely neglect because of time, space, or maybe because ‘you’ think its not as important…thereby forming the “slant”. So maybe nothing really is completely objective….

  2. I like how you showed both sides of the objectivity situation–and yes, you’re right that it’s impossible, especially in the news. Even in stories about events that did occur, which include factual, precise information, the writer has the control–he or she selects the quotes that not only tell “the story” but that reinforce whatever opinion is floating around in that writer’s subconscious…

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