Is subjective journalism actually harmful?

In today’s society, it is clear that journalism is corroding and that democracy is being threatened due to the way in which news media spew biases. Oftentimes, a single story is being told with a political left or right perspective to persuade the public in a particular direction instead of providing information and letting the public decide for themselves. Pech and Leibel (2006) stated that “the work of the journalist, when carried out correctly, does not shape or inform the event itself. This can be expressed by saying that the event would be the event it is, even if the journalist had not reported on it” (p.153). However, the journalism that is experienced today is not ideal nor geared towards being objective and unbiased. It is less focused on accuracy and much more concerned with invoking emotional responses.

Unfortunately, I do believe that it is near impossible to have a completely unbiased journalist because we all view things differently and how we decode information will be tainted from that viewpoint. It is then important to clearly state what our biases are at all times; this is how we exercise ethical care within journalism. Neutrality in the news media is not possible when there’s a mandate for profit because increasing revenue becomes the main objective. Information then is often presented skilfully to control how and what people think about. Journalism can be a source of entertainment but that should not be the priority. Providing accurate stories that are not designed to trigger certain emotional responses but are curated as objectively as possible should be the end goal.

What intrigued me then most about this reading was that the topic of conversation covered between the two brothers were about the Covid-19 pandemic and public health yet all other reporting outlets took a special interest to zero in on their relationship. The bromance took precedence because it was entertaining and personal; it was something exciting to grab their viewers. No one made a request for them to publicly state what their biases were, instead we made assumptions about it. I believe that our assumptions could equally be as dangerous. Asking the right questions are important because it clarifies assumptions and allows us to be open and honest about our biases.

We live in a small world and the truth is we cannot avoid our personal biases or our connection with others. After all we live in a it’s not so much what you know but who you know environment therefore, some things are unavoidable. However, when reporting information to the public we owe others integrity and objectivity. Had the brothers provided the public with an honest view of their potential biases I would not have a problem with the interviews. I believe that the intentional personalization of journalism is dangerous. Any use of pathos as a persuasive appeal in journalism is a journey away from objective truth.

References

Pech, G. & Liebel, R. (2006). Writing in solidarity: Toward an ethic of care for Journalism. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 21(2&3), 141–155

Lauricella, S. (2020). Pandemic prime time for the Cuomo brothers: Ethics, objectivity, and relationships in journalism. Media Ethics Initiative.

“Learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better.” - Pope John Paul II