Remaining Objective in Journalism

Bias, advertising and propaganda continue to be tumultuous aspects of the journalistic world. Unfortunately, these aspects of journalism are prevalent in today’s world more than ever. Technology provides an outlet for the consumption and distribution of the news at such a high degree, therefore, critical thinking has become an essential tool in reporting and consuming the news.

Advertising is defined one way as, “the activity of making products or services known about and persuading people to buy them.” Advertising has taken a strong foothold in modern day media because of the constant onslaught of digital media. We can access the news from our phones, computers. and tablets, and this allows constant advertising to appear on our screens.

Propaganda, a tool used for many years, is defined as, “information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument that are broadcast, published, or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions.” While propaganda is usually associated with warfare, it is also a heavily used tool in the media to help conform the audience to a certain belief. Propaganda differs from bias in that bias tends to be less premeditated. It is the job of a journalist to eliminate all bias and tell the story as pure and impartial as possible.

Unfortunately, Bias continues to plague modern media. In an article for CNN, Stephen Collinson, a White House reporter, shows very obvious bias in his writing. While the article is a pre-analysis of the upcoming 2020 election and Mr. Trump’s current dealings, Collinson shows an obvious leaning toward an opinion.

Having an opinion is fine if the article is slated as an opinion piece. While Collinson provides some evidential backup to his analysis, his words and headline are clear bias. Collinson says, “Will Americans validate the rule-breaking and fact-bending Trump presidency that scorns the post-World War II international system?” While there may be evidence to support the claims that Trump breaks rules and bends facts, this comes across as a clear opinion of the writer instead of putting forth a statement of the facts.

The headline for the article also leans heavily on bias. The headline reads, “In one year, we’ll know if Trump was a fluke or not.” This headline immediately shows a stance and gives no leeway for an impartial finding of the information. Rather than theorizing something, doing the experiment through whatever research is necessary, and then analyzing his findings, he immediately writes about the possible outcome of Trump’s presidency. While that possible outcome might be based on circumstantial precedence, his writing steers the reader in a specific direction rather than allowing the audience to choose for themselves. Given that the piece was not written as an opinion piece, this raises major flags, as people will look to this article for fact and not opinion.

Absolving inadvertent false information can be done through a variety of practices. The first and most obvious tactic is adhering to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. This code is pivotal in assuring honest news reporting. Another best practice is to read over your work and have a colleague or another person read it to help pinpoint the potential for bias or falsehood. While Stephen’s article was most likely read by an editor and then submitted, it still contains a hint of subjectivity. Comprehending the material, regardless of its subject matter, is essential in preventing inadvertent falsehoods.

This kind of reporting is not limited to just potential presidential candidates or those in a political climate. Reporting on celebrities is a common practice in the world of journalism. The practice is often centered around informing the public of the private lives of famous people. Some situations, much like the leak of private celebrity photos on the internet, are complete invasions of privacy that teeters on the edge of what is considered real journalism. Other situations are centered around telling legitimate news.

ONA Ethics says that the difference between real news and non-news regarding celebrities is in the intention. If the intention of the celebrity news is to promote, report or bring to light information in an ethical way, then it is real news. This difference is essential in understanding news from all different aspects.

An example of a non-news story about a celebrity is a recent article from TMZ on Paige VanZant. The article’s headline and story centered on the physical appearance of the UFC fighter. VanZant went to Israel to watch her husband’s fight. Instead of promoting the fight, the article focused on certain physical aspects of VanZant in a bikini. This type of non-news holds no true value. While the fight carries newsworthy aspects, the time spent on the beach does not. This type of non-news will undoubtedly gain numerous views because of its sexual nature. A gallery accompanied the article that contained several pictures highlighting her time on the beach.

An example of a news story about a celebrity with value is a recent article from Entertainment News regarding Jaclyn Hill’s beauty line. Jaclyn was recently a part of a situation where her beauty line was met with complaints and issues. No recall was issued for the beauty products. Cosmetics is a major market. With the sheer amount of people that buy cosmetic products, it is important to know when a new beauty line may be hitting the market. especially one that was originally loved but met with scandal or falsehoods.

As to whether both real news and non-news reports about celebrities have a place, the answer lies in the value. Real news, in any medium, has value. It helps define the definitive observations in the world around us. Non-news does the same thing, but it doesn’t add value to our lives. Non-news is a source for controversy. Instead of writing about it, it causes controversy for the sake of it. It does not serve as a watchdog or help inform the world of anything with value.

 The first story about VanZant does not invade the privacy of any celebrity. According to the article, VanZant was aware of the photos, even going so far as to talk to the reporters from TMZ. The photos were taken in public with her knowledge, thus, no invasion of privacy took place. But the question of whether or not the article provided any value or followed the SPJ Code of Ethics is still up for debate.

The second story involving Jaclyn Hill discussed straightforward facts taken from Twitter and YouTube. It informs the public of things said on those two platforms by the person about which the article was written. No invasion of privacy took place as it was all publicly said things in a public forum. The value of the article, even though it is also up for debate, informs the public of a piece of information that might not have been publicly known had they not been a follower of Jaclyn Hill’s social media.

Regardless of the perspective or type of news disseminated, the core values of the news are what drive forward the objectivity and value of the writing. If the piece is written with the purpose of being opinionated, it should be stated as such. If the piece is written with the intent of providing news regarding a celebrity that is meant to enrich the value in our lives, it is considered news. If the piece is written to provide absolutely no value to our lives, then it is non-news. Everything has a purpose, but sometimes that purpose is discontented and worth nothing more than ignorance.

Written by Sean

Sean is currently a freelance writer that spends much of his time worrying far too much. He is a board and video game enthusiast, an avid watcher of movies, a lover of sports, and a certified nerd. While he has no specific writing style, he likes to think he can adapt as needed to different writing styles, tones, and intonations. He likes to cook, read books and is currently engaged to the love of his life!

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