Journalists Need To Do Better

It's time to throw objectivity out the window

If you asked me what was the most important thing I learned as a journalism student it would be objectivity. Journalists are supposed to be the watchdogs of our country and to do so, it requires an unbiased eye. But judging off our current media’s behavior you probably wouldn’t guess that. The disconnect between journalism and the communities they serve seems larger than ever since the 2016 elections and trust in journalists has decreased significantly. All of this proves our journalists need to do better and that may have nothing to do with being objective.

Perhaps it’s this long standing tradition and history within the journalism industry that gives journalists this idea that they don’t have to try too hard. That if they simply report the facts that is good enough and the rest is on the audience.

When I learned about objectivity and other requirements, I could barely see those traits in professional outlets. Time and time again it’s blatantly obvious when a journalist or news outlet is choosing sides. At times, that side may not reflect what their community believes in and not including that viewpoint is a problem.

I believe that journalism is a give and take system that we’ve not been taking advantage of. Journalists should be giving their time to reporting stories that impact their community. They learn about these and gain information by taking it from individuals in their community. The audience or members of their community give their time by reading these stories and take the information gained by reading the story and spread it around by word of mouth.

For this to work journalists and their bosses have to think of their audience as people with valuable thoughts. Not just a meal ticket.

This means journalists have to not only listen more and talk less but also hire people that represent their community. There’s still a huge diversity issue within newsrooms.

How can we expect a white reporter to go into minority communities or report on stories impacting people of color without some sort of bias? And not bias in a borderline racist way. Bias in the sense that we as white people have no idea what issues these communities face to accurately report on them or suggest solutions.

A recent study showed that 77% of newsroom employees were white. On top of that, 61% are men.

Contrary to popular belief, white males aren’t the only people in this country.

Objectivity can only go so far. If journalists truly want to make an impact then they also have to listen and newsrooms need to hire more people that aren’t white. By continuing to claim objectivity the media is clinging to a false narrative that everyone can see through.

Diversity should be a focus for journalism, not objectivity because that trait has been long ignored. We all know Fox News leans conservative while MSNBC has been labeled liberal. No amount of objective reporting from this point forward would change that. It’s time that news outlets admit this, own it and move on.

I’d much rather read an article on an opinionated news site with a diverse set of journalists than the ‘objectivity’ we have now. We need strong journalists to regain the trust the industry has lost.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s a very precarious time to be a journalist right now. The industry is worried about losing their protection under the First Amendment thanks to the back and forth going on with this current administration. All the cries of ‘fake news’ isn’t helping either.

Journalism is a group effort. Journalists rely on their communities for information. If no one is willing to talk then they will not get the full picture. This means journalists have to prove they are trustworthy. Just because this industry has been around for hundreds of years does not mean they don’t have to continuously prove themselves.

The time of objectivity has passed and the sooner journalists can admit that then the sooner they can tackle real issues.

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Also published on Medium.

Davyn is a journalism student at Arizona State University. During her free...