Objective Reporting

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Objective reporting is the act of reporting objective fact. All other definitions are either error or falsehood.

The act of passing on known falsehood without noting so is not objective reporting. It is something, but it is emphatically not objective reporting. I don’t care what they told you in journalism school or the human resources department of your company.

I write to inform and I write to persuade. I admit it. I think humankind could always do better, and I write to suggest ways we might do so. I always hope to reach you, the reader, and to engage you with fact, with reasoning, and with opinion. All of it I do by the use of language. I am aware of my objectives when I write. Would my work be considered to be objective writing? No?

Well, then, how about this view: Objective is the opposite of subjective. To be subjective is to inject oneself into writing, to be objective is to keep oneself out of it. Most of my writing is subjective; I openly display my self, my ideas, my thoughts, and my perceptions of events in my writing. I make frequent use of the first person. So objective reporting would be reporting which carefully passes on descriptions of events and the words others say, for instance, without visible personal evaluation, sticking strictly to the third person. Is that correct?

I think most people in the news business today would say Yes, that is objective reporting. Keeping one’s self out of the picture.

This is one of the most harmful falsehoods of our time.

What American media does today is pick the wrong definition of the word “objective” and then perform to that definition. (In case you’re interested, my dictionary lists 8 separate definitions of “objective” as an adjective, plus another 4 as a noun.) Pretending to be an unbiased tape recorder, as if a human being could be such a thing, is not objective reporting.

Objective reporting is the act of reporting objective fact. All other definitions are either error or falsehood.

There is objective fact. Objective fact is, in the current buzzphrase, A Thing. There is empirical fact. Objective reporting would be reporting objective facts. How can it be that this must be said? We have people in our public conversation today (Newt Gingrich and Kellyanne Conway come immediately to mind) literally, specifically, and openly saying that empirical fact does not exist or does not matter.  Since I originally wrote this a couple of weeks ago Kellyanne Conway has introduced the concept of “Alternative fact” into the pubic dialog. Since she’s with the
“Alternative right” I suppose she felt it was acceptable.

Empirical facts empirically exist. As an extreme example, people who die are empirically, factually dead. Empirical facts are the only rational basis for making public decisions.

It is not objective reporting to go on the air and say, “Donald Trump said the murder rate is up 956%. Hillary Clinton said it was actually down 3/10 of 1%.” Not even though, yes, he did say, if not those words, others as bizarre. Objective reporting would be, “Donald Trump made a ridiculous claim about the murder rate, which nobody even bothered to refute.” Objective reporting is reporting which is based on objective fact and truth. Constant reliance on and reference to objective fact is the only form of objective reporting which has any claim to the name.

If there is a news source in America which operates on this standard – “Constant reference to and reliance upon objective fact” – I am not aware of it.

If someone is reporting something to me without strict regard for objective fact that person cannot in any way be said to be objective. I refuse to play that word game. It offends me.

Somebody show me some objective reporting.

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5 thoughts on “Objective Reporting”

  1. Has anyone ever read the book Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein? My favorite book of all the required reading in high school. What I wouldn’t give for a few thousand “fair witnesses” in the media, surrounding the Lying Orange Toddler, etc.

      1. I believe I read everything Heinlein ever wrote, starting with his juvenile science fiction when I was in grade school. He never failed me.
        I think my personal favorite was Glory
        Road. Starship Trooper rated pretty high too.

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