Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Limitation of Harm

Journalists are thought to be impartial purveyors of current events and topical information, their journalistic integrity imploring them to report the news objectively rather than promote sewing-circle gossip. Like anything in life, this is not easy. After all, we are all only human. However, countless journalists have put forth their own agenda over the reporting of the news, and it is nothing new – since the first scribe put stylus to papyrus, reputations have been built and ruined on innuendo and rumor rather than the truth. Ever since the Nixon administration, however, it has become common sport to skewer anyone in the public eye in the pursuit of a story, no matter the facts or ramifications.

For some journalists outside the United States, this is the way of journalism. In a June 2003 interview with National Public Radio, Jeremy O'Grady of Britain's The Week, expressed that "the Brit is less afraid of opinion and more naturally embraces slant and agendas as part and parcel of the journalistic, historical process surrounding the recounting of events." In his estimation, this has given international media a more irreverent tradition with an inherent bias than its American counterpart. Thus, foreign journalists are not afraid to state opinion as fact in reporting a story.

Nonetheless, if a journalist has an ax to grind and uses a media forum to express it, they have become, in essence, a lobbyist for the formation of public opinion. They are no longer upholding journalistic principles of presenting the facts and allowing readers to form their own opinions. The belief in attaining objectivity in journalism may be theoretical futility, as O'Grady describes it, but it is a necessity for journalistic integrity. Without reverence for the facts and truth, journalists will become nothing more than advocates for a certain perspective – their own.

Of course, that's just my opinion . . .

©2006 Steve Sagarra

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