April 23! 2 classes left!
Today • Storytelling exercise • Discuss final exam possibilities, Look at grade scales • Lecture on objectivity • Two debates
CNN • http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-april-22-2013/this-is-cnn- • Oh for Fox Sake • http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-june-28-2011/oh--for-fox-sake---who-s-the-biggest-a--hole-
“Objectivity is seeing the world as it is, not how you wish it were.” • Not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased • Journalists can, inadvertently or deliberately, become propagandists -- the opposite of objective observers and reporters.
How does media treat stories that shake up the status quo? • How are Muslims shown in the media? • How is the Occupy movement portrayed? • Objectivity? • Do journalists do enough to investigate motivations and problems or is there risk there? What kind of risk?
Parks and Demonstration: Comparison of Tea Party and Occupy • http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-october-5-2011/parks-and-demonstration • Tea America: Coverage of Tea Party • http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-15-2010/tea-america
Journalistic objectivity is a genuine effort to be an honest broker when it comes to news. • That means playing it straight without favoring one side when the facts are in dispute, regardless of your own views and preferences. • It means doing stories that will make your friends mad when appropriate and not doing stories that are actually hit jobs or propaganda masquerading as journalism.
Objectivity isn’t something a reporter IS, but rather something a reporter DOES. • Two ways to look at objectivity.
Four characteristics of a "good" news story -- good both by professional and ethical criteria. TUFF formula: They are as truthful, unbiased, full and fair as possible.
The "T": Stories should be truthful. • The truth contained in a report is always partial. • But seeking the truth and reporting it as thoroughly as possible is still an essential mandate for the ethical journalist.
The "U": Stories should be unbiased. • Ethical journalists want to be impartial. Even though we are all subjective human beings, we can refrain from deliberately putting biased information into our stories.
The first "F": Stories should be full. • Even though you can never say everything there is to say about a topic, stories should be as complete as possible. • Ethical journalists put as much relevant information into their stories as they can.
The second "F": Stories should be fair. • This characteristic is more subjective than the first three -- in fact, it potentially conflicts with them. But ethical journalists should seek to be "fair-minded" in covering the news.
Fairness is different from the other characteristics in several wayss: • Fairness demands subjectivity on the part of the journalist, who must weigh competing values and loyalties. • Sometimes being fair means withholding part of the truth -- that is, providing a version of truth that is incomplete or even biased. • Fairness involves considerations of the journalist's responsibility to various stakeholders.
Being ethical does not force a journalist to choose between truthfulness and fairness. It's not necessarily an either-or problem. • You can be generally devoted to finding and reporting the truth while still recognizing that sometimes, your desire to be fair to someone involved in a story will take precedence.
Practical Examples: Balance of Fair and True * Protecting confidential sources. Fairness is related to keeping promises, as well as to protecting those who make themselves vulnerable by entrusting you with sensitive information. * Providing sources an opportunity to reply to information about them. This can take various forms, from obtaining multiple sides of a story to offering separate space for responses, such as on an opinions or letters page.
* Treating sources with courtesy and compassion, particularly those who are not used to dealing with the press. • This includes sensitivity about people's need for privacy, especially when they are stressed or grieving. * Following up important stories so that sources can show (and citizens can learn) how situations have been improved or problems addressed. * Correcting errors promptly, completely and prominently.
Being "objective" is a method -- and journalists' use of language is a central component of that method.
Ethical Journalists focus on providing news that corresponds to reality -- that is accurate in a way that includes but goes beyond getting the facts right -- by being bothcomplete and proportional. • (Autism Example)
Outfoxed • Some People Say • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYA9ufivbDw • Cut their mic • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTkFU4MtubU
News should be complete in the sense that it is about everyone in our society, not just the elite (or the people whom advertisers are most interested in reaching). • News should be proportional in that the amount of coverage, and the prominence given to particular stories, should correspond to the actual importance of the event or issue.
Judgments about completeness and proportionality are by nature subjective. • A citizen and a journalist may differ over the choices made about what is important. • But citizens can accept those differences if they are confident that the journalist is trying to make news judgments to serve what readers need and want. • The key is citizens must believe the journalists' choices are not exploitative -- they are not simply offering what will sell -- and that journalists aren't pandering. ... • "The key element of credibility is the perceived motive of the journalist. People do not expect perfection. They do expect good intentions"
So objectivity, these folks argue, involves methods and attitudes rather than some idealized, unattainable state of human nature.
But the methods and attitudes also can create problems for journalists. The article from Columbia Journalism Review titled "Re-thinking Objectivity" highlights the difficulties, which are especially evident in political coverage but are relevant in news reporting on other topics, as well. • This author says the notion of objectivity can be problematic when journalists confuse it with the ethical norm of independence.
Blind adherence to objectivity can lead to: * Lazy reporting * Over-reliance on official sources * Hesitance to probe for evidence that might contradict those official sources, for fear of being attacked as biased The author urges journalists to work to develop areas of expertise. Amid all the babble, society needs smart and independent sense-makers ...
Cunningham Article • "Mainstream reporters by and large are not ideological warriors. They are imperfect people performing a difficult job that is crucial to society. • "Letting them write what they know and encouraging them to dig toward some deeper understanding of things is not biased, it is essential.“ • What do you think? Do you agree, or is this sort of approach bound to lead down a slippery slope to partisan journalism?
Let's look a bit more closely at some of the ways journalists "make news" -- that is, construct the news in particular ways that fit their own cultural or professional ways of viewing the world, but may or may not have a lot to do with objectivity, completeness or proportionality.
U.S. journalists, especially in the leading national media, tend to share mainstream American cultural values. • These include faith in democracy, capitalism, individualism and a stable social order.
Journalists fit occurrences into standard formats or frames, allowing them to "routinize the unexpected." • For instance, a fire is always covered in a particular way, a city council meeting in another, a political campaign rally in a third way, a children's carnival in a fourth, and so on. And social trends or other broad issues often don't get covered at all. • In addition, the capabilities of a particular medium lead to emphasis on stories that fit those capabilities. So video drives TV news, immediacy drives online news, and so on.
* Politics and government, in particular, become dangerously oversimplified. * Journalists covering political campaigns tend to rely heavily on what other journalists -- particularly those at elite media such as The New York Timesand Washington Post -- are writing. The derogatory term for this is "pack journalism." • The results include "feeding frenzies" focused on particular events (typically gaffes of some sort) and disproportional coverage of front-runners. In particular, journalists tend to focus on who is ahead and on political strategy rather than candidates' stances on issues.
Political campaign advertising has become hugely influential -- and journalists do a spotty job of assessing it for truthfulness or context. • This cedes enormous power to political propagandists, without giving citizens an objective way to assess the content of the ads.
"Character" -- whatever that is -- has become a stand-in for leadership ability. • In addition to privacy issues, one result has been an electorate increasingly convinced that all politicians are slime (and that therefore, who wins or loses really doesn't matter). • Journalists seem to have trouble with the concept of balance here -- there's a lot of middle ground between mere human imperfection and scurrilous immorality.
In comparison with campaigning, actual governance is more important -- but a lot less sexy and exciting. So it gets less coverage ... another problem of proportionality. • The coverage we do get is increasingly dependent on "leaks," which are inherently manipulative and whose correspondence to reality is always suspect.
On the other hand, when journalists cover government, they too often do so from an arrogant, critical perspective that portrays government leaders as incompetent, at best. • Perhaps because journalists actually value the preservation of social order, many journalists see their "watchdog" role as one that involves keeping a sharp eye out for anything that can upset the orderly and thus "proper" functioning of society. • That's fine as far as it goes -- we do need an independent monitor of power -- but it can easily result in coverage that is disproportionately about political conflict and government wrongdoing. • WHAT KIND OF STORIES NEVER GET TOLD?
One possible solution, a communitarian or "civic journalism" approach in which journalists take on a greater responsibility for improving society. • In this view, the media's goal becomes something closer to advocacy: "empowering individual citizens to act in ways that promote political discussion, debate and change." • Do you agree that is an appropriate role or goal for journalists? What does it do to the notion of "objectivity"? Is there a middle ground?