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Transparency is so the new objectivity

April 22, 2017

I read this in a blog from 2009, but it still holds extra true today.

 

There is a somewhat recognizable shift in journalism. Complete objectivity doesn’t exist. It just can’t, and people are beginning to realize this. However, this phenomenon can be treated: all it takes is a little with a dose of transparency.

 

 

What does that mean, “transparency”? For starters, it means that reporters should address their biases up front.

 

There’s that word -- bias. We’ve all got them, and we’ve all got to acknowledge them. For example, if I were a journalist reporting on an animal rights violation in my city, and I was also a regular volunteer at the local animal shelter, it might be helpful to include that at the end of the article or in my bio. It’s a small, seemingly trivial example, yet the concept is incredibly important when dealing with journalists on a larger scale.

 

There is a bit of a gray area when it comes to distinguishing an activist from a journalist. In today’s media climate, Glenn Greenwald every reporter could be construed as an activist, since even those claiming to be “objective” are still furthering the cause of whatever establishment they are not calling out.

 

A survey from the Pew Research Center found that 60 percent of Americans want their news presented as facts without interpretation, while around 40 percent would like interpretation. However, the study also found a sharp divide in what the public considers “fact,” with 81 percent of that same sample agreeing that supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton often disagree over what is basic fact.

 

Here, that “interpretation” might be the information that a so-called joint journalist and activist like Glenn Greenwald might provide. Yet, when the public can’t even agree on what the facts are, how can the mainstream news media claim to report on just the “facts” without bias?

 

All news sources have some bias, whether it’s left, right or even center.  This is especially pertinent as we enter a presidential administration that is the least transparent in recent years. The White House visitor logs are no longer public, and the president himself has refused to release his own financial records that could be considered a conflict of interest.  

 

In this climate, it’s now on the media to step up its game and address bias where it happens. We can report on the facts, but we have to address where those facts are coming from, and how we interpreted them.

 

And this doesn’t just go for the Amy Goodmans, Glenn Greenwalds, or the Fox News team. This goes for every outlet from CNN to NPR to Democracy Now! that claims to do journalism. Transparency is the new objectivity, and now all journalism needs to make it the norm.

 

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