Is objective reporting possible?

It’s a good question and one that has been examined in journalism schools across the country for years.  I remember having such a debate in graduate school.  I was in grad school when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took place.  Of course discussions arose on how the attacks were being covered in the news.  Some students were appalled at the reporters who showed emotion.  One even questioned whether reporters should wear American flag pins.  After all, that showed an allegiance to a country.

But, I would daresay that truly objective reporting is not possible.  Every writer has his or her own set of circumstances that have shaped his or her worldview.  Those creep into coverage on even the most mundane articles.  I am incredibly wary of anyone who claims to be 100 percent objective.  We all have opinions.  They tend to make an appearance, even in small ways.  Of course, we can guard against this and should do so to the best of our ability.

Journalists must first recognize their biases before they can overcome them.  For example, I personally don’t drink alcohol for various reasons, including religious ones.  A few years ago, I was writing a section for the newspaper that required me to cover food at some local bars.  This was way out of my comfort zone.  I checked myself often to make sure that I was staying objective and giving them the coverage they deserved, which was focusing on their food.  I knew that I had a predisposition that needed to be examined.  I knew that I needed to be just as fair to these establishments as I was to the family restaurants I was covering for the same section.  That said, I do have limits.  I know where my objectivity would no longer be able to function.  And I would not cover those topics.

I have to know my biases to be a better writer.  And while I don’t consider commentators like Nancy Grace to be journalists, I do at least respect that she makes no bones about not being objective.  Objectivity is possible, but only to a certain degree.  Because no one lives in a bubble with no life experiences, true objectivity is not possible.

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