Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Objective Journalistic Standards

The Kind of Journalism We Should Expect in Washington Monthly makes many of the same arguments that have appeared on this blog. Journalists need to better understand how to properly and effectively apply a standard of objectivity without a false or contrived balance. A good objective journalist will instead try to find and report on the heart of the matter on any particular issue. A bias so strong that it can not be overcome by a search for the truth requires a switch to an advocacy role rather than a reporting role. A good journalist is not just like a judge who decides which side to believe.  The role is best thought of as a research scientist searching for the truth with a focus on what is important, placed in the proper context for understanding. Starting with a premise of equal treatment of two sides on every issue creates an opening for propagandists. Assigning Pinocchios to falsehoods by one side or the other after the narrative has been set by one side or the other misses the point because the narrative is already lost.

The NYT's professional standards claim to focus on facts and fairness, without "fear or favor" and the "complete unvarnished truth. This standard needs to be updated to define completeness to include "in the proper context".

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