So what is the answer to the issues I posed last month about the myth of media objectivity? I hinted that a return to the partisan press era might be a solution. The media could free itself from the constraints of objectivity by simply proclaiming their bias, which ever direction they chose, and letting the market sort things out.
As several people commented, however, a 100% partisan press would lead to all news being skewed and spun for a political end. That’s not really an outcome we want, though, is it? So what is the answer? Here are three suggestions for individuals and three suggestions for the media to consider.
1. Eliminate Objectivity from Your Lexicon: Realize and understand that this is an impossible ideal. Do not expect objectivity from the news media. Time and space constraints require reporters and editors to decide what information to include and that is inherently subjective. Remember as well, however, that you are biased. You are interpreting the news based on your existing views. Be sure to recognize the baggage you bring to the table.
2. Replace Objectivity With Fairness: Instead of expecting objectivity, expect that reporters and editors will present the story fairly. Look particularly for loaded language or words and phrases that pigeonhole and stereotype people. This means loaded language on both sides, phrases like right-wing and left-wing, even conservative and liberal. While each of us on the Oregon Catalyst, for example, would consider ourselves “conservative”, I think it’s safe to say that we don’t walk lock-step in line on every issue. I bet the folks on Blue Oregon would say the same about the liberal tag. Of course they’d be wrong. (That’s a joke Blue Oregon folk. Just poking a little fun.)
3. Vote With Your Remote: And with your wallet, and with your pen or email. Let reporters and editors know when they’ve missed the mark on a story. Stop watching news programs that consistently miss the mark on fair coverage of issues. Even stop patronizing advertisers from those shows. Most importantly, let them know why you’ve stopped watching or reading. But please, do it civilly, soundly and rationally. Make your point in a manner in which they will actually consider it, not dismiss it outright because you come across like a nutbag. Reporters and editors in particular don’t know everything about every issue, so take the opportunity to educate them if they got something wrong.
1. Quit Worshipping At the Altar of Objectivity: Seriously, it’s practically cult-like the way some editors and reporters insist that objectivity is the ideal to which they strive. Please, give it up. It is impossible to attain, and by always trying to defend your actions with the shield of objectivity you just perpetuate the myth.
2. Be Fair: Instead, try presenting a news story that is fair to all sides of an issue. Yes, report the facts, but choose which information to present with an eye toward making sure the viewer, listener or reader has a complete picture of the issue. We understand that time and space will make this difficult. Some issues are complex and require a deeper analysis of the facts. By striving for a fair presentation of the issue, however, you’ll do a service to all of us regardless of our political affiliations or position on an issue.
3. Stop Being Lazy: Using loaded language and political tags like liberal, conservative, right wing etc. is just plain lazy. Labeling tells us what to thing instead of presenting the person’s view and letting us decide. You’ve stuck the person into the box you think they fit in. Trust that your viewers have the ability to sort things out for themselves after you’ve presented the information fairly.
So, readers, am I off base here? Is this attainable? Or am I worshipping at the altar of the pollyanna?