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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Writing Quote: Objective Versus Subjective Journalism

     There is no question that journalists at establishment media venues, including The New York Times, have produced some superb reporting over the last couple of decades. I don't think anyone contends that what has become (rather recently) the standard model for a reporter--concealing one's subjective perspectives or what appear to be "opinions"--produces good journalism.

     But this model has also produced a lot of atrocious journalism and some toxic habits that are weakening the profession. A journalist who is petrified of appearing to express any opinions will often steer clear of declarative sentences about what is true, opting instead for a cowardly and unhelpful "here's-what-both-sides-say-and-I won't-resolve-the-conflicts" formulation. That rewards dishonesty on the part of political and corporate officials who know they can rely on "objective" reporters to amplify their falsehoods without challenge…

     Worse still, this suffocating constraint on how reporters are permitted to express themselves produces a self-neutering form of journalism that becomes as ineffectual as it is boring. A failure to call torture "torture" because government officials demand that a more pleasant euphemism be used, or lazily equating a demonstrably true assertion with a demonstrably false one, drains journalism of its passion, vibrancy, vitality and soul.

     Worst of all, this model rests on false conceit. Human beings are not objectively-driven machines. We all intrinsically perceive and process the world through subjective prisms. What is the value in pretending otherwise?

Glenn Greenwald, The New York Times, October 27, 2013



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