Media Objectivity


I have been consuming and analyzing too much media and political discourse since the November election. Recently, I have noticed a trend towards discussing objectivity in journalism and the role that conventional media should play in light of the rhetoric and behavior of the Trump administration. One show that keeps coming back to the topic is WNYC’s On The Media, which seeks to understand news events by analyzing their portrayal. I have enjoyed many of the insights from this and other programs, including that it may not be possible for a person, who lives a real life, to be wholly objective. I accept that all journalists at times need to be editorial, and that by disclosing their viewpoint they will allow an informed and motivated consumer to understand one point of view and to seek out others. The danger here, of course, is that not everyone will seek multiple points of view. This major trend, only seeking out viewpoints we agree with, has been dubbed “living in the bubble.” I agree with another insight of these analysts, that simply including the token Democratic or Republican viewpoint is not sufficient a effort at objectivity.

What I find lacking in all these discussions is a wider and perhaps a more academic point of view. Our major news outlets align themselves along conventional American positions. Their are our liberal outlets and our conservative outlets. This trend, dubbed “balkinization,” is dangerous as it reinforces the bi-polar nature of our politics. Rather than seeking “objectivity” within this conventional American political spectrum, I ask why do not Journalists take a wider point of view? I find that American politics are  too often discussed as though the current system and mainstream spectrum are the only possibilities. I know that major change, like establishing a third party, is unlikely in the near term, but wouldn’t Journalism be more objective if we simply took larger and longer view? What if we talked more about todays events with reference to history, with an academic rigor that considered not only our politics, but these politics in reference to the wider world, or political theory?

The Democratic party platform and that of the Republicans are not the only existing workable theories of right and left. There is also communism, socialism, libertarianism, facism and many others. Some of these have limitations, downsides, did not work so well in practice, or have not been given a chance. It is true that our attention spans are waning, but I think journalists would do better, and even be more objective, if they took the time to discuss our modern politics in the context of these larger ideas. Economists realized that purely rational human economic beings, knick-named econs, do not exist and purely objective automaton journalists do not either. That, however, does not mean that we cannot strive for an objectively more informed discussion.

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