Giving objectivity a bad name

Journalists sometimes miss or underplay big stories by trying to be objective in the wrong way, says UNC’s Phil Meyer. Instead of presenting “both sides” and letting the audience decide, Meyer argues in the new Yale Climate Media Forum that journalists should be objective in their method, not their result.

In other words, journalists should act more like scientists: collect information, look for patterns, construct a theory, and then provide an objective test of the theory. Objectivity in this sense means asking a question of the data in a way that will protect you from being fooled by the answer.

To do this well, he points out, journalists need more than just general knowledge because “journalism’s main activity is not gathering information but processing it.” He’s absolutely right.  Even if you’re not a beat reporter, pick some topic or other you care about and get smarter.  It will serve you and your audience well.

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