Objectivity

Objectivity seems to be an ongoing conversation throughout the course of my journalism courses and one that continues on in the industry.

We are told to be reporters of news and nothing more, we are encouraged to look at our own personal biases that come with being who we are and how they might affect the work we produce.

Naturally we are predisposed as humans to have opinions on different topics granting the explanation that there is no true objectivity. We as journalists are expected to put those opinions to the wayside in the hopes of providing the clear unmolested facts of a situation, but it isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

At the same time, I got to thinking during our social media peer review, where we were partnered up to go over a peer’s social media presence, that more than ever we’re also expected to have opinions?

Instructors have spoken on the benefits of being able to merge a personal and professional persona online, one of them being that audiences will be able to connect more with someone who shares tidbits about their life and for all intents and purposes showcases a “human” side.

This I agree with wholeheartedly. People gain trust for someone and generally speaking “like” them more if they are able to relate them to themselves. In that sense, I don’t see how it’s possible to go opinion-less.

Audiences like to know where people stand. Now more than ever before it seems that they like and expect to see people they idolize or follow taking a side on tough topics. In the past, large public figures were probably not as encouraged to choose sides for fear of ostracizing groups of people (and their support.)

This idea seems to extend to the media as well. Specifically those media personnel that are in the public light seem to do best and gain favor with fans when they pick a side on a divisive issue. Magazines and newspapers even have taken political sides and gave voice to topics that would’ve been more taboo to speak on in the past.

I have mixed opinions on this. There’s a part of me that hopes that these people and organizations are genuinely taking a stand on issues and seeing that their audiences are compassionate intelligent individuals.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s also a part of me that thinks that these figures are doing their part to feed their opinionated political activist consumer bases. Meaning they’re only taking a stand because it’s the the thing to do. It almost seems for lack of a better word – a fad.

An example would be that very ill-received pepsi ad that came out earlier in the year. It was a poorly thought out commentary on nationwide unrest and protests that completely missed the mark. Many were left wondering how a company could produce something so tone deaf. And I think that was their attempt to voyage into political territory, which ultimately sunk. I couldn’t help thinking they were one of many “riding the wave” to pick sides on big issues with the difference being they weren’t as successful…although they did garner a lot of attention so make of that what you will.

There’s a lot more to say and I think I will revisit this topic later in the year to see if my outlook has changed. The point is I believe, is that objectivity is ideal but not real. I think I see it as teeter tottering on a tight rope – a balance between reporting just the facts, being a journalist and being professional but also retaining some humanity about yourself.