In order to sustain the most basic of communities, there needs to be a core web of connection that unites the citizens of a community and enables them to overcome their intrinsically individualistic tendencies. To be a true community, members must feel driven to look at their place in relation to those around them (though not necessarily “around” in a literal or physical sense); to look at their society as a whole rather than simply at their own little piece of existence. the most important way to build this connection is through information, and, more specifically, through a source that filters information and makes it relevant to the individuals of the community.
The prototypical example of this would be journalists, tasked with uncovering, discovering, and accumulating facts, analyzing those facts to develop a story, and finally putting that story into context and making it relevant to community members via the journalists’ own knowledge of those individuals, as fellow members of the community. However, this kind of information gathering-analyzing-distributing hub can exist in many forms. Newspapers and news media are probably the largest and most important source, but also community leaders, company emails, targeted advertisements, flyers hung in the window of a local restaurant – any source in which information has been gathered, filtered, digested, and made easier or more relevant to the audience is serving the needs of a community. Local newspapers such as The Columbia Tribune, search engines like Google which allow you to filter your results by category, location, or time, Mizzou deans and faculty members that send out mass emails relevant to the university’s community, and emergency broadcasts on local radio stations would all be examples of this. With the widespread popularity of the internet, it’s becoming even easier for groups and communities to create websites that automatically filter information and deliver a personalized experience and customized information tailored to fit each individual’s needs and desires (albeit at the potential cost of putting up blinders to new or different experiences). Some of the best local community websites have been rated and featured by the Suburban Newspapers of America, showcasing how effective new technology can be at bringing a community together by reaching out to and engaging its members. Other websites, like Wikipedia, yelp.com and even group pages on Facebook or other social networking sites can be great tools for spreading information and giving people what they want to know, without them having to go to great lengths to seek it out.
To participate in a community, individuals must know about about the community, whether it be about what kind of topics the city council is debating, where the local fair is taking place, who they should contact when they need questions answered, or what they should do in an emergency situation. If this information is not easily accessible, a community cannot exist; if this information is not actively distributing itself to citizens, the community cannot thrive. In order to have people engaging and becoming a part of the society, information must be saturating the environment, and not be a difficult commodity that must be sought out. There will always be a few people who go out of their way to find out how to get involved in local politics, or intramural sports, or an art fair, or whatever other part of the community, but for the vast majority of people, unless there is a source which filters through the oceans of information and delivers what is relevant to them, in an organized and understandable manner, they will never get involved and both they and the whole community will be the poorer for it. Making citizens feel like they are part of the community will, in turn, make them become even more a part of the community, and thus strengthen the individuals and the whole.
When you first think about this topic you’d like to believe the media and journalists should be objective because it only seems fair. My thought is however that having media that isn’t objective and is biased makes for such good television, news shows, and debates.
I wanted to find something that talked about media objectivity and broke it down into simple terms. Here’s a video I came across that satirically touches on the lack of objectivity in the media and with journalists.
For the most part I think that people already will form their own opinions even if the news that is covered isn’t objective, and when it comes down to it that’s what being objective is all about; putting the facts out there for people to form opinions. Call me new school in the way that I think but I enjoy people putting their opinions out there, it makes for good TV and gets people that are opposed fired up. Who doesn’t love conflict? Isn’t that why we watch Jerry Springer and shows like that? Hopefully that didn’t get confusing but when someone isn’t objective, or is bias, people get so angry and that’s when the claws come out and that when we begin to pay attention.
Let me break this down even further. If I were to write a story about how political figures look terrible in black suites then it would anger the people who think they look god in black suites. In turn, what this would do would give the opposition cause to speak out against my story. What has now happened is that we are going back and forth, which people love, and the story is now becoming popular which almost unconsciously teaches the viewers about the subject at hand!
Obviously it’s incredibly hard to be objective, it’s just human nature to be bias and in some way give your opinion. With that said, let’s just all embrace it and not worry and get all heated when the media isn’t objective! It’s a new wave of media and this is what’s put in front of us so why don’t we just look at all the positive things that it can do for us and go from there. Before I wrote this I was under the impression that journalists and the media should absolutely be objective and then as I read articles and really thought about myself as a reporter I began to realize how hard it would be to not include my opinion in some way. We all have opinions, lets not be a boring society!
We have already been arguing about bias in media in class. While bringing a single answer to the question “are media biased” seems to be a difficult tho, most of us have agreed upon that bias, indeed, can be found in media. I come to understand that it is almost impossible to present absolute objectivity because of nature of human beings. When I was taking Journalism classes, I forced to myself to believe that objectivity is crucial as being a journalist. However now, since I acquire much broader sense of how current media has evolved and changed from past generation’s media, my opinions about media’s objectivity is Yes and No.
I still believe that media and journalists should be definitely objective when presenting political news. Because they are the source providers for people, how media and journalists frame can impact on people’s ideas and views on issues.
On the other hand, as development of internet expands the horizon of news sources available to people it seems like the importance of media’s objectivity decreases. As mentioned, people now have more sources for news available via blog, social networking site (twitter or facebook), youtube and whatnot. If it weren’t the news on TV or news papers or magazines, people can get their political news and information easier and faster than ever. Even though media limits their opinions and strive to be objective, the possibility that people will be influenced by bloggers or online columnists is inevitably huge.
Moreover, now with various news providers available, people can choose the type of views they prefer and suits with their own. Since the TV is not the only information provider anymore, people do not need to limit themselves to certain ideas or views but they can find what they think fits the best for their ideas. People will listen to something they don’t necessarily agree with, then will switch to different views and find what they think the best. The youtube clip suggests that media and journalists should be open-minded rather than constrained to be objective.
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!
Excuse me and not to be overly cliche and borderline-paranoid, but I think every good discussion on the role of the media deserves a quote from our friend, George Orwell.
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. (1984, Book 1, Chapter 3)
The point here is simple, but important–for the government to not have such unparalleled, unquestioned influence over the course of political events, it is absolutely essential for the press to not only be free, but to play an active, inquisitive role in society. This means more than simply publishing official resources or questioning Obama’s decision to appear on the Daily Show instead of reforming economic initiatives. What it means is that, yes, the media–especially the news media–have an almost moral obligation to not only report the news at its core, but to analyze it in such a way that is critical in nature, even if that might be perceived as accusatory.
My initial feeling about the role of journalists in times of conflict is that they should not challenge the government just for the sake of challenging the government. They should report the facts and hold the government accountable to their promises and declarations.
This is much easier said than done, of course. There is an unavoidable tension that exists in practicing objective journalism while maintaining a sense of patriotism. There is also debate about exactly what patriotism looks like. I think patriotism should motivate citizens to help move the United States forward in the most ethical and honorable manner possible. As watchdogs, journalists can be catalysts for progress if they seek to balance, to the best of their ability, the need for transparency and the need for national security.
To be honest, the topic of journalists’ role in times of crisis is not something that I consider very often, though I recognize its implications for the practice of democracy. Consequently, I now turn to the opinion and experience of others to supplement my own. In 2003, our friend Bill Moyers interviewed author Susan Sontag about her experiences recording war. Sontag reminds Moyers that she is not a journalist, however, her insight about experiencing war in Sarajevo is still relevant to challenges that journalists face:
When you go home and people say ‘How was it?’ You really can’t explain.
Images will disgust you, but they won’t tell you which wars are worth fighting.
One of the biggest questions hinted at by Sontag centers on the definition of Patriotism. Is Patriotism consensus or debate? I think Sontag would lean more toward that argument that Patriotism is best expressed through honest debate. The conclusion that Moyers and Sontag reach is that it is the job of writers and photographers to bring awareness to those who are comfortable.
When considering the danger of consensus by journalists, the first historical event that comes to mind is the Holocaust. This article mentions Eli Wiesel’s distinction between information and knowledge:
On its own information meant only the existence of data. It lacked an ethical component. It was neutral. Knowledge, implied Wiesel, was a higher form of information. Knowledge was information that had been internalized, crowned with a moral dimension that could be transformed into a call for action.
Journalists thus have an ethical responsibility not only to report data, but to interpret it in ethical terms, according to Wiesel. While Wiesel is admired for his writings on ethics and humanitarian issues, this approach to journalism during times of conflict muddies the waters of journalistic repsonsibility beyond comprehension.
The same article points out how cautiousness in German and American journalism were detrimental in the effort to combat Nazi Germany:
One explanation was that the Nazis were so skillful at hiding the facts. They used the tools of modern totalitarianism to control the flow of information, to confuse the enemy, and to stimulate a rush of pride and patriotism among their own people. They not only dominated the German press, all of which was filled with propaganda, lies and distortion; they also controlled and intimidated the small number of sympathetic, Berlin-based foreign correspondents, who came to understand that they had to play ball with the Nazi authorities or they’d be expelled or imprisoned. They functioned, to the degree that they functioned at all, under a rigid system of censorship. Their reporting, like soft porn, was soft propaganda. There was no real reporting from Germany — no equivalent of CNN’s Peter Arnett in Baghdad. There was no broadcasting, no television (then still in its infancy), and no wire service dispatches. German and foreign reporters were intermediaries of Nazi propaganda. The news from Germany was the news from Hitler’s headquarters.
My fourth reason concerned the very nature of journalism, as practiced in the United States. During the war, American journalists, never an adventurous lot, performed, with very, very few exceptions, like obedient servants of the U.S. Government. Reporters were cautious patriots, comfortable with their role as cheerleaders in a cause against fascism, which they fully supported. Vietnam was still 25 years away. The story was the prosecution of the war, the pursuit of an Allied victory, unconditional surrender. Like most other Americans, journalists covering the war had no other objective. Their editors wanted stories about the home front and the war front. Neither the editors, nor the reporters, were geared to do stories — quite fantastic stories, it seemed — about millions of Jews being gassed and burned to death as part of a systematic German campaign to exterminate a people. Now, with hindsight, we can second-guess the editorial limitations of the time, but then it all seemed perfectly natural.
Challenging the government when necessary is an act of patriotism. It is also a responsibility that transcends American ideals and enters the realm of basic human decency (as ironic as that sounds).
As I began to think about this blog post I was completely against the challenging of a president or military leader in the face of war or national crisis but as I began to research this topic a little more my views began to change a little.
I always like to relate things back to the sports world for me and in this case, more specifically, coaching. I just began coaching this past semester and I really got a good look at the other side of the game (hang with me, it’ll all tie back together). Within a coaching staff you have to be in agreement with your plan of attack with not only the team but individual players as well. If you all aren’t in agreement together it can create distrust from the players. Then if one player begins to question what the coaches are thinking and doing he could spread that throughout the team and before you know it you have a team that’s divided amongst each other, as well as a group of players who don’t believe in their coaches. This actually went on this past week with the Detroit Pistons, click on this link to read that story and in the next paragraph you’ll see how I tie it all together.
Here’s where I tie it all back to the media covering the war. When you look at our country, we should always be working together for the betterment of the country (the team). The high ranking authorities that hold all the power in the decision making process are like the coaches of our team. If you have the coaches coming to a consensus of how to approach a war you want everyone within the country to be on board with it. This is where the journalists come into play. If there are journalists that oppose how the President is going about his decision making process then that gets played and the team (us), begin to go against what the nation’s leaders are trying to do.
So when I look at it this way I’m completely against opposing the president and military leaders during war because it causes internal conflict within our own country. Those were my initial thoughts on coverage of the war, but I’ll be the first to admit that I have little knowledge of war coverage so I knew that I had to do some research to familiarize myself with the different ways that journalists. As I did, here’s what I found and why it persuaded me the rethink my stance.
A big part as to why the recent war was started because of false information that the United States received from an informant who had fictitious information on weapons of mass destruction. Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, aka Curveball, claimed that Saddam Hussein was constructing weapons of mass destruction. Click here to read the rest of the story.
If the journalists and publication companies just go along with what curveball said and what Colin Powell decided then who is going to speak up? You’d like to think that the high-ranking officials take every precaution when making decisions like this but this case shows that things can sometimes slip by. When you let journalists in who aren’t afraid to challenge decisions they almost transform into detectives for the President, a national checks and balance system.
When it comes to major crisis such as events like 9/11 I think the media really walks a thin line when it comes to how it should cover the events. My big thing is that the media has to be very sensitive because you never know who’s watching and whom it might offend. Something like 9/11 was such a sensitive time and the more that graphic scenes were shown, the more people became enraged and saddened by the events. This video is with Keith Olbermann discussing the coverage of the 9/11 and it’s aftermath.
I’d like to think that journalists should simply just relay facts and facts only but when we go back to the bias involved with reporting it almost seems as if it’s just impossible for journalists to not take a side. This was a little bit of a confusing post so let me re emphasize my stance. I think that journalist should be careful when opposing the president and the military leaders in a time of national crisis so as not to create tension within the nation when unity is needed. I also believe however, that journalists are a good source of checks and balances for the American public with the president, and finally I believe that journalists have to be super sensitive and thoughtful when it comes to covering national tragedies.