…and the blog topic of the day is (drumroll please):
Is the Daily Show with John Stewart and/or the Colbert Report really political news?
I feel like this question is one that could yield many different results. One of those questions that the answer just depends who you are asking. If asking someone who thrives on “hard news” their answer to this question is most likely going to be a solid no. When asking a media savvy young adult, they would probably say yes. If you are asking John Stewart and Stephen Colbert you might want to take a look at their websites.
According to the Daily Show’s website,
“The Daily Show is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program that takes a reality-based look at news, trends, pop culture, current events, politics, sports and entertainment with an alternative point of view.”
They claim to be “unburdened” by the standards of journalism today and even accurate facts. With this in mind they still claim to present political news. This political news, however, is just spun in a satirical light. The Colbert Report also has a website. They claim to be a spin off of the Daily Show starring a political humorist on a satirical television show. So itsofacto, they too claim to be news but held to the same lack of standards as The Colbert Report.
These shows are presenting politics in a humorous way that draws the attention of a younger generation. This brings me back to our class discussion last Thursday. Those who seek out political information are more likely to promote political participation. AKA those watching these two programs are more likely to promote political participation.
Since my debut into the blogosphere, I have been taking a deeper look at the connection between journalists and the stories they produce, especially in the political realm. A previous post of mine on media bias went into detail explaining my viewpoint that no media could be unbias. I carried on to explain that the idea of objectivity seems far from achievable because bias is created simply when journalists are deciding what to and what not to include into their works.
This takes us to today’s topic, “Should journalists and the media be ‘objective’ when presenting political news’? Why or why not?” While I believe that complete objectivity is not a feasible possibility, I also believe that journalists should work towards getting as close to it as possible.
Why? With ‘objectivity‘ the facts, without any other personal input from the journalist, are presented to media consumers. From here these consumers are able to then take that information and process it on their own. They are given the material needed to create their own opinion on a topic.
I believe that this is crucial to sustain the Democratic process. Americans are given the right to vote the way that they want for the things that they believe. However, with the media whispering bias in the ears of their consumers this process is altered, objectivity is ruined, and journalism is shaping the opinions of Americans. This is why objectivity, or at least attempted objectivity is so important. This is why a goal of journalists should be to to reach that objectivity.
“Just like a scientist would begin an experiment with an idea of what the outcome is going to be, a journalist often enters a story with an idea about what the story is.But the point of objectivity is that doesn’t matter. It has to be tested against the evidence that you can find, and then you have to tell the story straight” – Alex Jones
Recently there has been a continual question of the role of journalist in society. Perhaps the biggest question uprising in the previous years is whether journalist should be completely objective in their reporting. This is a difficult question to answer because it’s answer assumes we live in a perfect world, yet acknowledges the fact that we are flawed.
So, should all journalist be objective? Absolutely. Will this ever be able to happen in our society? Not likely. Objectivity is one of those things that all journalist strive for, yet the will never truly be able to achieve. This is largely due to the fact that human beings, by nature, are naturally inclined to have opinions. This situation almost parallels the role of a minister in society. The minister has sworn to live a pure life to his creator. No matter how hard he tries to live a pure life, he will always be flawed. It is merely human nature.
Today’s society also makes it harder for journalist to be objective. We feel that the media has a certain obligation to tell us their perspective. We are so used to the subjective reporting, that we wouldn’t know how to react to objective reporting. In fact, I am almost willing to bet that if Americans were exposed to pure objective reporting, many would find it bland and boring. We live in a society where opinions are highly valued. We expect people to constantly be expressing their views, and we expect to constantly be able to give our input.
Although I do believe that pure objective reporting is difficult, if not impossible, I do think that it hold many values that are important to our society. Objective journalism would force Americans to do something that often seems to be overlooked and undervalued these days. It would force Americans to think and form their own opinions. Objective journalism, in its purest sense, would force citizens to analyze the facts then come to a logical conclusion. So often in today’s society, we forget that we have brains. We believe what the press and media want us to believe, to a certain extent, and we never stop to second guess what we believe. Objective journalism should challenge every American to form their own opinions on what it going on in the world.
Although pure objective journalism will never be achieved, journalist should continue to strive for this common goal. Doing this will only challenge the intellects of Americans and better the country.
It’s not that I think that objective political news is a myth. It’s not even necessarily that I think object political news is the end-all be-all necessity of “true” journalism. If anything, I recognize two truths: that it is nearly impossible to be fully objective in political news and that news would be damned boring if it was.
In my opinion, searching for pure, objective journalism–a journalism devoid of unique perspective or bias–is a bit like searching for Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. The very nature of journalism is rooted in humans–human reporters, human perspective–so how does one propose to remove human subjectivity without removing the human itself? It’s a bit like the Hawthorne Studies–the very presence of humans affects how humans behave. Similarly, the very principle of being human makes political news susceptible to human subjectivity. Perhaps not a flawless analogy, but the principle is there.
And to that end, what would removing subjectivity really accomplish? In my opinion, political news can be divided neatly down the middle: it consists of the facts or “iron core” and of political opinions and analysis. As long as that iron core–the true, hard facts of events reported–covers the true depth of the event (example: if a reporter brings up an Israeli civilian death count, then that same reporter should also bring up Palestinian civilian death count), should a journalist’s potential subjectivity really matter? The concern I would have involves the misreporting or lack of reporting of critical details; if, past that core, journalists choose to analyze news one way or another, that’s their prerogative as living, breathing humans.
I mean, listen, I’m no fan of Glenn Beck, but, at the core of it, he has the rights to televise his opinions just as much as I do. I, as a critical citizen, should just know better than to take his words at face value.
And in some cases, I even appreciate the perspective because it might not be one that I have. Jay Rosen expresses it better than I do–
If in doing the serious work of journalism–digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat–you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority. It may even add to it. – Jay Rosen, PressThink.org
So forget the anachronism of striving for an ideal that is impossible to reach, let’s look at it through the words of Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. And to say it the way you want to as long as you don’t change facts on me. That’s when we’re going to have problems. xoxo!
“If in doing the serious work of journalism–digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat–you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority.” -Jay Rosen
Media objectivity seems to be a controversial subject in our ever-evolving world of journalism. The public wants to hear the “truth,” but in my opinion, the “truth” doesn’t have to be opinion free. As Rosen and Cunningham argue in their respective articles, good and clear reporting and investigation can easily lead for journalists to develop informed views. If a subject is well-researched, opinions are inevitable (but based on authentic and well-informed information). Journalists report conflict, and with conflict, comes opinion. After all, reporters and editors are humans too.
At the School of Journalism, we sit in class, after class listening about how we need to remain objective and how the news industry is dying. What I fail to understand is why we don’t just acknowledge that mild subjectivity in news is the product of a good, proactive journalism. Instead, let’s debate on how we can continue to make money in journalism and report the stories that need to be heard.
Although the below video is long, it is interesting because Keith Olbermann discusses how the most prominent journalists, i.e. Rather, Morrow, and Cronkite, “evaluated, analyzed, unscrambled, accessed” using the facts and their own conscience. He proceeds to argue that pushing for complete objectivity is like “worshiping a false god”:
Cunningham “Re-Thinking Objectivity” argues that there is “nothing has replaced objectivity,” but I think the answer is acceptance of opinions. If that means journalists (both traditional and nontraditional) dig into the stories, probe for questions and talk to reliable sources, I can handle impartiality. Sometimes our doctors, lawyers and other trusted professions insert their opinions, so why do journalists have to be an exception? Let’s let them use their education of an issue to inform the public.
If Rush Limbaugh does his research and doesn’t get too cozy with political officials, I’m willing to listen to his opinions . . . but only then.
I don’t frequent political blogs, as most of them offer pointed, one sided opinions on issues about which I care little. However, there is one vlog that I follow on YouTube that has political leanings, though it isn’t strictly about politics. That vlog is Penn Point.
The vlog is self produced by illusionist and self-proclaimed libertarian Penn Jillette. I follow this vlog for three primary reasons. First, Jillette is funny, and since journalists have taken to covering the news poorly and primarily with emotion (as we discussed in the previous blog), if I’m going to be gathering information from an industry that is widely regarded as a joke in the first place, it might as well be from a guy who gets paid to be funny.
Second, Jillette often states that he is clueless about the nuances of the political topics he covers and that he is speaking from a biased viewpoint, that being a libertarian viewpoint. He urges viewers to look up more information from sources who are more aptly equipped to explain politics, which is, ironically journalists most of the time. I appreciate a man who can admit he doesn’t know it all and urges people to research on their own.
Finally, because I enjoy Jillette’s Showtime smash Bullshit! I find that having him explain things of a political nature automatically sparks skepticism in me concerning what his opinions are and, if I believe what he is saying is off the wall or too libertarian, I will go off and research an issue myself from a different viewpoint. So, Penn Point makes me more active in a subject I have little interest in in the first place, which I think is good.
In addition to this, Jillette offers a libertarian viewpoint on some issues. Though I do not identify as a libertarian, some of his points are interesting and resonate with me and serve as an alternative to the typical “left vs. right” viewpoint on nearly everything. Jillette’s vlog also makes me question some of my own beliefs that don’t allign with this libertarian viewpoint, which is something I welcome and enjoy. Jillette also takes shots at both right wing conservatives and left wing “hippies,” the latter of which is a joy to watch for me. Because most of the political blogs I StumbleUpon are typically written with a self-righteous, left wing slant and most right wing blogs are written by ultra-conservative religious people, having a different viewpoint on politics is refreshing, but most importantly, funny. Jillette’s vlog tends to challenge the status quo in a way that isn’t so much “down with the man” (as I find most liberal leaning blogs are) but in a way that questions (albeit bluntly and often obscenely) the more popular opinions on things like health care and gun control, for instance.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Jillette doesn’t take himself too seriously on the whole. Most blogs I StumbleUpon write on issues as though they are making some sort of difference in terms of solving the issue when they’re doing little more than pontificating on a pet cause. While there are situations where Jillette does speak seriously (for example, on free speech or the shooting in Arizona [note, this link is a two parter and has profanity]) which, if I’m intrigued, leads me to research further on the issue at hand, most of the time, Jillette is just a funny guy who spouts off on things that bother him in libertarian terms. And since he states that he’s got a libertarian bias and that people should never take his word for granted, I find him to be more honest than most bloggers out there, which leaves a soft spot in my heart for his vlog.