Often the requirements of objectivity
lead journalists to leave out interpretations and analysis, which
might be construed as personal views, and to play it safe by reporting
events without explaining their meaning and keeping stories light
and superficial so as not to offend anyone (Ryan 1991, p. 176)
Bagdikian relates how:
News became neutralized
both in selection of items and in nature of writing. American
journalism began to strain out ideas and ideology from public
affairs, except for the safest and most stereotyped assumptions
about patriotism and business enterprise. It adopted what two
generations of newspeople have incorrectly called 'objectivity'.
(Bagdikian 1983, p. 181)
Journalists who accurately report
what their sources say, can effectively remove responsibility
for their stories onto their sources. The ideal of objectivity
therefore encourages uncritical reporting of official statements
and those of authority figures. In this way the individual biases
of individual journalists are avoided but institutional biases
are reinforced (Ryan 1991, p. 176).
Professional codes ensure
that what is considered important is that which is said and done
by important people. And important people are people in power.
TV news thus privileges holders of power...Its focus on individual
authority figures as privileged spokespersons reflects the ideologies
of individualism and elite authority. (Kellner 1990, pp. 113-4)
The occasional environmental journalist
finds the pretence of objectivity goes against their conscience.
The producer of CNN's program Network Earth, Teya Ryan, wrote
"As the air in Los Angeles grew browner, more debilitating; ...
as the destruction of the world's rain forests became widely known;
and as everyone wondered where to put the trashparticularly
the plutoniumI wondered if 'balanced' reporting was still
appropriate". Others see it as necessary for their credibility:
"The peril is that if readers perceive journalists as having become
advocates rather than reporters, then they won't trust anything
they read or say." (Quoted in Lyman 1994, p. 39)
The appearance of objectivity
is so important that some media outlets don't even let their journalists
take part in public political activity, such as marches and demonstrations,
even as individual citizens in their own time. Journalists at
the Washington Post, for example, received a memo stating: "It
is unprofessional for you... to take part in political or issue
demonstrations, no matter on which side or how seemingly worthy
the cause." (Kurtz 1993, p. 148)
H. 1983, The Media Monopoly
(Beacon Press: Boston).
Kellner, Douglas, 1990, Television
and the Crisis of Democracy (Boulder: Westview Press).
Kurtz, Howard, 1993, Media
Circus: The Trouble with America's Newspapers (New York: Times
Francesca, 1994, Mudslinging
on the Earth-beat, The
Amicus Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4.
Ryan, Charlotte, 1991, Prime
Time Activism: Media Strategies for Grassroots Organizing
(Boston, MA: South End Press).