February 22, 2023
Journalism and objectivity
Newsrooms are debating whether objectivity should still be the standard for news reporting. Recently, Leonard Downie Jr. wrote an opinion piece on objectivity for The Washington Post. Downie argues that moving past objectivity can create more diversity in newsrooms. The piece has sparked a lot of responses from different news organizations, but the question remains: is objectivity outdated and what can newsrooms do about it? “True objectivity is a fallacy that overlooks more important standards, like fairness and truth,” SPJ Director of Ethics and Diversity Rod Hicks said. “How can a news report be objective when journalists working on it make so many subjective decisions, including which sources to interview and why this story was chosen to tell over numerous others that weren’t?” The SPJ Code of Ethics insists that journalists should seek the truth and report it and act independently. Some journalists believe that pursuing objectivity can lead to giving both sides of a story equal weight and in diverse newsrooms, that can negate many identities and backgrounds. “All journalists draw from their life experiences when producing stories, which is why it’s important to fill newsrooms with journalists with diverse backgrounds,” Hicks said. “Rather than focusing on objectivity, journalists would be better off focusing on truth-telling and following ethical guidelines, which mitigate their biases.” The Code advises journalists to be accountable and transparent and explain ethical choices and processes to audiences.