May 24, 2013
Away With Objectivity
Posted on Nov 7, 2011
This article originally appeared in Spanish on LatinoCalifornia.com.
I answer that to keep our balance, swings and seesaws at the park or trapezes in the circus will do, but it just so happens that journalists are not acrobats. Nor is journalism a spectacle to show off keeping one’s balance on a tightrope, getting along with all and getting the public’s acclaim.
But journalism must always have both sides of the story, reads the creed of the faithful devotees of “objective and balanced information,” and here I ask: Is it then, that as journalists we are required, for example, to take the point of view of Hitler and the Nazis to be fair or balance the points of view of Jews and other non-Jewish victims of Nazism during World War II? In fact, most stories are not antagonistic or symmetrically reduce to only two sides, and that optical geometric simplification is not applicable to the journalistic task to reflect diverse and complex facts of reality that have more sides than a dodecahedron.
For as the acclaimed American journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges, considered one of the greatest moral voices of journalism in the United States today, wrote for Truthdig, “The creed of objectivity and balance, formulated at the beginning of the 19th century by newspaper owners to generate greater profits from advertisers, disarms and cripples the press.”
When I am invited to speak at various universities in Southern California, I always speak against the “creed of objectivity and balance.” I say that you cannot balance the truth with falsehood, and that the rules of objectivity, as theory taught in universities and schools of journalism, promote the practice that what is published becomes, many times, the official version of events.
That version, presented under the guise of objectivity and balance, ends up imposing what is “true or false” and is accepted by the public as an article of faith, while hiding the perspective, both social and historical, from which it is written and published. Thus, anything else written outside that framework that does not conform to the dogmatic worship of a false objectivity permits those in power to design, manage and impose a consensus of “opinion” useful to them, while sending other nonconforming versions, without passing through purgatory, to the hell of paranoia or so-called “conspiracy theories” to scorch there.
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