02 March, 2009

What is your stance on the subject of objectivity?

by: Simphiwe Kanityi (Rhodes University)

Well, have written on why I have to take journalism, there has been a discussion in my class on the topic of objectivity. All I can say is that the argument went on and on each person giving his/her opinions based on what each person feels and believes is right. What I gathered from the argument though is that the statements we made showed that objectivity is difficulty to obtain, the reason why is because our arguments proved that some people are comfortable in knowing that their ideas are the best imposing an indirect motion that other people should align themselves with them.

Scholars have written so many articles on this topic as well, bloggers blogged on it and columnists also played their part, but all had not reached a common agreement on when and how to be objective. This alone, shows how unattainable objectivity is.

Now considering my previous article, there I have written that I am doing journalism because I want to change the world because of the power I possess to do so. Firstly, I want to get across that before writing my article I was clear on this subject of objectivity and the arguments thereof.

Defining objectivity is not so different from defining news. I believe “news” has derived from the word “new” referring to something that some one has not heard off yet. In this case I would draw from the words of Richard Taflinger where he says “After all, if news is that which is of interest to newspaper readers then the comics, the horoscope and the crossword puzzle are news, a conclusion with which few would agree”. The first decision to make is what is recent: today, yesterday, last week, five minutes ago, since the last news report? Someone, in journalism usually an editor, makes this decision, and thus that person's world determines what is recent.

From this I now know that starting from the first point of what to select as news might be considered as being subjective, but what happens when reporting on those news you have selected, can you be objective? The answer is NO! Why? A news report is a series of words describing the event. As in selecting which events are news, someone must decide which words best describe the event. These decisions are based on the reporter's world as he or she examines the facts gathered and decides what words those receiving the report will best understand. Now, to who is this person objective if he/she reports using his/her style?
Coming to conclusion, after reading Theodore L. Glasser’s article entitled ‘Objectivity and News Bias’ in Cohen, E.D. (ed). 1992. Philosophical Issues in Journalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, I feel more confident to say that my views stand still on what I said. I am doing journalism to change the world. I have got my own way of seeing things and my world view is not the same with other people’s world view. This gives me that extra energy that people out there are eagerly waiting for my opinions mixed with what is happening around them that they have not yet heard about.

I will not be biased or prejudice but I will be expressing my views and my world view in my own words and since I know that my world view is component of news, I will consciously minimize the impact of subjectivity. I will make sure that my world view does not dominate in gathering, preparing and disseminating the news, otherwise objectivity is a dream that we all would like to achieve and we keep on trying and hoping that it works out. Since objectivity has been argued so much even if it is not there people still think that the media is using it because their minds have been programmed into thinking like that. Again, this is my world view which is open to critics, but keep in mind that we will not see things the same way.

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