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December 3, 2010 / Rick Martin

The last word on objectivity

I was just reading a post by Alan Mutter entitled ‘Objective’ journalism is over, Let’s move on which reminded me of a lively Twitter debate among some Japan-based people on this very topic.

The takeaway from Alan’s article:

[J]ournalists not only possess valuable insights into the matters they cover but also have an absolute obligation to share their perspectives with the public after diligently gleaning all sides of a story in an ethical and open-minded manner… [We should] treat the public like adults by providing the clearest possible understanding of who is delivering news and commentary – and where they are coming from. Hence, the following proposal:

Let’s take advantage of the openness and inexhaustible space of the Internet to have every journalist publish a detailed statement of political, personal and financial interests at her home website and perhaps even in a well publicized national registry. Full disclosure would enable consumers to make their own informed judgments about the potential biases and believability of any journalist.

This standard will work as well for journalists and media outlets committed to down-the-middle reporting as those desiring to express a point of view.

At the very least, news organizations can provide such disclosures in writers’ online bios. Journalists would do well to do the same on their personal websites too (and if you don’t have one yet, get with the times).

What about print you ask? Refer readers to your website. If you want to get real fancy go develop a custom link shortener (read how here) for your paper and publish nice compact author links next to bylines or in your ‘contributors’ list.

Still not convinced on the issue? Read Jay Rosen’s The View from Nowhere which, as far as I’m concerned, is the final word in the discussion.

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