There once was a time where Journalists were respected and valued by Americans…
They were held to the highest standards when reporting on any subject.
Even though they still have several goals when reporting, one of the main goals—besides informing the public—should be to remain objective.
“The tradition of objectivity has been termed ‘one of the great glories of American Journalism’” is a quote directly from the book accurately named Objectivity In Journalism…
Yet, so many of today’s “journalists” ignore it.
Now, in current times, it’s considered a myth.
News used to be viewed as fair and objective. The job of a journalist was once to report the facts, analyze, then give an opinion using that analysis. They are expected to remain objective and unbiased. Although some would argue that journalists still do just that, it can also be argued that a strong bias is often hidden behind elaborate language.
If this is the case…
Then the meaning behind journalism has been altered.
Truths, Objectivity, and Facts
Sadly, we live in a day where anyone can be a journalist…
But people tend to confuse facts with truth. Some even use these words interchangeably.
What Is Truth?
There are several versions of the definition of truth…
The dictionary says that it’s “the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality” and “a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true”.
How does this relate to journalism? It means that the truth has its foundation on fact. One of the many responsibilities of a journalist is to find and present what is true. A journalist should put facts and truth together, usually focusing on quantifiable facts.
Unfortunately, journalists often find what they THINK is true and present it as fact.
What Is Fact?
As quoted above, the truth is derived from the facts.
At the core, journalists should aim to report on the facts. But what are facts? “Fact” is a word that describes language about the world, and not the world itself. Meaning that the job of the objective journalist is to separate what is fact and what is opinion, forcing journalists to analyze their own views before they can sort through the facts and opinions of others.
The Danger Of Interchangeability
After going over the definitions, truth and fact are different things. Journalists—as well as the people who read their writing or watch their broadcasts—find the truth through the presentation of the facts. The truth relies heavily on the facts.
Viewers (later called partisans) trust the journalists to present the facts in a fair way. Journalists cannot only share what they think the truth is and present the facts that support that “truth”.
Journalists have the responsibility to equally share both sides of a situation in order to make a logical and objective conclusion based on the ACTUAL facts… to explain why it is important to present facts and not supposed truths. When reporting on facts is presented as reporting on ‘objective truths’ that exist outside of any representations, there is a risk that we misconstrue the nature of facts.
Secret Definitions In Bias And Inflammatory Language
A secret definition…
Over the years, there has been a significant decline in proper use of language. In his classic novel 1984, George Orwell says, “It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts”.
This decline of language has a huge political impact. It has created a dishonest use of words. Orwell says this about people who misuse words: “the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.” Journalists use these words to create a secret meaning to influence how the readers (or partisans) view and interpret the information.
Another author says “media outlets, including broadcasters with a claim to impartiality, fail to give workable definitions” (Barkho 2013).
They need to explain what they mean when using certain words, but, sadly, this does not happen often. There is an assumption that the viewers have the same thoughts and feelings about a subject. This is often not the case, however, and reporting and journalism now come across as unfair for this very reason.
But it gets MUCH deeper than this…
But we’ll get into that in part two of this piece.