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Away With Objectivity
Posted on Nov 7, 2011
The essence of journalism is for me the search for truth, which is not usually sitting in a corner waiting for the arrival of reporters to run into it, pick it up as it was found—chaste, pure, immaculate and free of contaminants—and then transfer it without subjective media interests, “professional, objective and balanced,” to the readers, the public and audiences beyond.
The great Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski wrote that “to be a journalist, first of all, you have to be a good human being. Bad people cannot be good journalists. If you’re a good person, you can try to understand others, their intentions, their faith, their interests, their difficulties, their tragedies.” A good person, then, who exercises journalism can keep his eyes subjective, but honest, to describe what he sees from his specific place and tell from there what he sincerely sees, whether it is literally a physical place, or a social or economic context in which he is immersed.
I wonder, for example if anyone believes that the mainstream media had honest, sincere, professional, objective and balanced coverage on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I contend that there was not even any coverage; instead, they had propaganda intended to stop other opinions from being voiced, turning the propaganda into “public opinion,” thanks to what Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, a pioneer in the use of collective manipulation technique, called “the engineering of consent.”
Those who hold political and economic power are very comfortable with the journalists who claim to be neutral and objective. We live in a world where no one can be neutral, where neutrality is often confused with hypocrisy and indifference.
How to be neutral between truth and falsehood, between hatred and love, between construction and destruction? How to be neutral with such impunity, so much injustice, so many repulsive acts committed by man against man? How to be neutral to the children killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? How to be neutral when so many demons, disguised as humans, are on the loose causing grief, pain and immeasurable suffering to so many people in this world who don’t deserve it? Do not ask me for neutrality, please; I plead I am partial toward the search for truth and all that may give us back a more human way of life.
I maintain that theologians who believe that so-called objectivity, balance and fairness are required to consecrate a reporter at the sacred altar of the “professional” have been successful in that many “journalists,” unconsciously nostalgic of when they were babies rocked with a pacifier in their cribs, today—with their news, interviews, features and reports—are mollifying a society that is in urgent need of waking up.
Journalism that does not make you uncomfortable is not journalism. Journalism that soothes and numbs instead of alerts and awakens is not journalism. For human beings, being awake is an indispensable requirement to realize our dreams, for if we take a good look at the world with sincerity and honesty, we can see how millions are living and others are watching with indifference, and we can see it is the corrupt and evil face of a nightmare.
Veteran Mexican journalist Ruben Luengas is host of Telemundo’s 11 p.m. newscast in Los Angeles and the program “Contragolpe” on KPFK 90.7 FM. This article was translated by Isabel Carreon Scheer.
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