ON OBJECTIVITY. Wow, a bunch of young journalists who don't believe in objectivity. I dunno, I'm going to have to side with Mike here. I rather like the idea of objectivity in reporting, by which I mean approaching the world with questions and letting the answers you get shape the story you write, rather than seeking only those facts that you can fit into a pre-conceived narrative. Now, I'm all for news outlets where people allow ideology -- or even just perspective -- to shape the questions they choose to ask, as we do at this magazine, but there's still something to be said for being reality-based in the pursuit of answers, I hope. Even ideological reporters can be objective in their assessment of facts.
I sometimes feel like the growth in media criticism as a field has led a lot of people to form higher-than-ever expectations of journalism. Journalism is not the Holy Bible, a set of fixed texts meant to be parsed and prodded and discussed ad infinitum. It's not in the business of creating permanent works designed for endless rounds of commentary (reports are not essays). It's the first rough draft of history, and, depending on the outlet, there should be real emphasis placed on the word "rough." Journalism is almost never "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God." It is, frequently, "What I could find out by deadline about this new thing that happened that my editor would let into the paper." (With the "what I could find out" part obeying, in good journalism, certain rules of comprehensiveness in terms of the intensity of the search.) Journalism is an attempt to impose narrative on the world, sure, but because the world is in constant flux, every written story is only part of a larger story. It's aspects of reality put into print. It's snapshots. To be sure, sometimes you can use a wide-angle lens -- but you can never fit the whole world in a single frame. There is almost never a last word. That's for historians. Journalists are students of the ever-unfolding present. Pundits try, often with little more success than fortune-tellers, to predict the future. And the distinction between reporters and media personalities -- that all too frequently gets elided these days. But count me in the same camp as Mike: There is value in the reality-based search and in the quest to simply uncover aspects of the world.
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