Objectivity in Journalism

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Objectivity in Journalism

By | July 2010
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Objectivity in Journalism
DAVID BROOKS
The real core of journalism is objectivity — seeing the truth whole and being fair about it. Thus the answer to liberal bias is not conservative bias. It is objectivity. |
David Brooks |
There is some dispute about whether objectivity can really exist. How do we know the truth? Well, I’m not a relativist on the subject. I think there is truth out there and that objectivity is like virtue; it's the thing you always fall short of, but the thing you always strive toward. And by the way, I think that opinion journalists have to be objective just as much as straight reporters. Opinion journalists, too, have to be able to see reality wholly and truly. As George Orwell said, they have to face unpleasant facts just as much as anybody else. What are the stages of getting to objectivity? The first stage is what somebody called negative capacity — the ability to suspend judgment while you're looking at the facts. Sometimes when we look at a set of facts we like to choose the facts that make us feel good because it confirms our worldview. But if you're going to be objective — and this is for journalists or anybody else — surely the first stage is the ability to look at all the facts, whether they make you feel good or not. The second stage is modesty. And here I think one of the great models of journalism is someone we just saw at a Senate confirmation hearing — Chief Justice John Roberts. He was asked by the Senators to emote. Senator Dianne Feinstein, for instance, asked him how he would react as a father to a certain case. It was as if she and other Senators wanted him to weep on camera. They wanted him to do the sentimental thing, in order to make them feel that he was one of them. But he absolutely refused, because his ethos as a lawyer and as a judge is not about self-exposure. It's about self-control. It's about playing a role in society — a socially useful role. Roberts kept explaining that judges wear...