Objective Journalism Vs. Partisan Journalism
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DIS 611, W 9 a.m.
Objective Journalism vs. Partisan Journalism
Objective journalism in the United States should be reconsidered to accommodate the demands of varied audiences and increased media outlets. With the media growing in magnitude and influence, many people are looking for fresh, like-minded news sources. Declines in newspaper readership and television news viewing among many Americans suggests that objectively reported news is a failing philosophy. Younger, more impressionable people may be ready for the advantages of the partisan news reporting style.
For many years, American journalism has been remarkably different from other parts of the world, particularly Europe. The European style of journalism is aggressive, analytical, and opinionated. They are not afraid to express their opinions while presenting the researched facts. On the other hand, American press is marked by objectivity. Objective journalists make quick decisions, and seemingly have more credibility. The goal of appearing unbiased sets the American press apart from the European, and it has remained because nothing has come along to replace this style of journalism.
Brent Cunningham suggests that the pursuit of complete objectivity distracts journalists from the real “truth” and leads to lazy reporting (Cunningham par. 11). “If youre on deadline and all you have is Ðboth sides of the story, thats often good enough.”(Cunningham par. 10). The way most stories are set up, reporters present two sides, and the reader decides which is right. Often times, however, the readers are in no position to make a call. They may not have enough information to make an educated decision. They are not the ones extensively researching an article; that is up to the reporter.
Cunningham says the failure of the press is their dedication to style, creating not only passive journalism, but also passive readers. He outlines this failure as a result of “allowing the principle of objectivity to make us passive recipients of news, rather than aggressive analyzers and explainers of it” (Cunningham par. 5). The news reported is given with “balance” and “fairness.” But without a slant to a given position, the reporting lacks assertiveness. According to Cunningham, “Objectivity makes reporters hesitant to inject issues into the news that arent already out there” (Cunningham par. 13). If it has not already been presented, it is tough to sell a new twist to an editor. This leads to incomplete reporting.
Cunningham says research that is not done aggressively and completely is a formula for bad reporting (Cunningham par. 11). Objective reporters are often hesitant to question politicians. If they do challenge official sources, people could more easily label them as biased. Because of the system, journalists become extremely cautious about their reputations. If a partial bias is shown, faithful readers will recognize that bias and label the reporter from that point on. On the other hand, if some facts are not presented in the interest of objectivity, readers are cheated out of hearing the whole story. A story may present both sides of a story, but without a final word, the story is left incomplete.
Objective journalism became the norm in the 1800s. Originally, the goal was to appeal to as many people as possible. If a newspaper could present unbiased information, it would logically have more readers. In the 1960s, objective journalism was questioned because of government lies, particularly relating to the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, many reporters recognized the overwhelming evidence that the war was not worthwhile, and opinions were presented with their everyday reports. However, no other style emerged to replace objective journalism in America (Campbell 276).
Alternatives to objective journalism do exist in todays media field. Cunningham references two reporters in Louisville who helped resolve several court cases. Jason Riley and R.G. Dunlop investigated their local court system, and uncovered several cases that had not been settled. They reported the overall dysfunction in the county courts, and won a Polk award for the series of articles. This example of the partisan style of journalism was simply to research extensively and call the issues into question (Cunningham par. 29). It was not passive like everyday objective journalism; it was completely aggressive. If journalists are really doing their jobs, they should be doing more proactive reporting. They should not be resigned to report the obvious one side versus another, but instead should ask the tough questions, confront problems, and suggest solutions.
Cunningham cites a few specific examples of how objectivity has hampered journalism today. Only 12 out of 574 major network evening news reports confronted the issue of the Iraqi War aftermath. This obviously illustrates the hesitation the media has in questioning and speculating major political decisions. Generally, the press does not feel any obligation to call out politicians and elected officials about their decisions. Instead, some facts are reported, and no one is willing to ask the tough questions. Cunningham points out that newspapers carried dozens of speculative articles for the debate on women joining Augusta National Golf Club. He argues that the press should have an obligation for preparing the American public for the aftermath of the war in Iraq (Cunningham par. 34).
What most people do not realize is