Should Or Can The Media Be Impartial?
What might be an alternative to objectivity, a better way to understand the role and responsibilities of a free and independent press? Theodore Glasser
There seems to be a requirement that the media (television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet) should be objective, impartial, neutral, fair. Some even claim that it is. Why should reporters be objective when no one else is? This blog is the result of my reading an article by Theodore Glasser, The Ethics of Election Coverage. In Stanford Magazine.com – Medium, Aug. 31, 2016
We don’t expect Supreme Court Justices to be objective and impartial. Liberal judges and conservative judges are not objective by definition. How about salesmen, police officers, CEOs, your neighbor or some family members? And how about a politician running for congress or for the presidency?
Today with the rise of rapid computerization of communication and social media, we may need a new view of the media ethics of objectivity. What should be the role and responsibilities of a free and independent press? Do we need to reject the ideal of a detached and impartial reporter? If we have too much objectivity, does it render the media incapable of identifying falsehoods? If we have too little of it, what does that do to the norms of professionalism?
In closing, Glasser asks the following question: What might be an alternative to objectivity for understanding the roles and responsibilities of a free and independent press? Some suggestions by him and others:
We might acknowledge journalists as writers whose stories interpret the world they live in and care about rather than as reporters whose reports describe a world to which they have no apparent commitment. Glasser
There are no finally “correct” or “accurate” accounts of the world; all descriptions are interpretations in the sense that everything can be redescribed. Richard Rorty
Depict news not as a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts and events that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently know truth but as a mysterious and malleable thing, constantly changing, not just as new information emerges, but as our own interests, emotions and inclinations change. Ken Burns
It is no longer enough to report the fact truthfully. It is now necessary to report the truth about the fact. 1947 Report on a Free and Responsible Press