Issues of trust and lack of objectivity in the news have been swirling in a tornado of growing frustration with the journalism industry. Undoubtedly, there are news outlets, both at the national and local level, who may have taken things too far when it comes to injecting their opinions into certain topics.
Most journalists are well aware that readers are quick to criticize any work that contains personal takes. This can be due to confirmation bias; readers only want to read what they agree with.
What then should journalists do? Some choose to report based strictly on facts, but others – especially those on mainstream TV talk shows – aren’t afraid to let their opinions seep into their messages and appease their followers. While there are a few bad apples out there, most journalists and reporters always aim to report what’s truthful, accurate and morally correct.
On Wednesday, author and journalist Lewis Raven Wallace visited the Hilltop to discuss their thoughts about objectivity and activism in journalism as a queer transgender person.
In the speech Wallace gave alongside their book “The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity,” they explained how objectivity only helps those in power, and does not allow outside voices and points of view to be represented.
The Scout knows that objectivity is not an end-all be-all, and that most topics and news stories are necessary to be reported on fairly to protect those that could be harmed or impacted. Comments such as Kanye West’s this past week, however, are necessary to be critiqued, and an objective viewpoint or non-stance only helps peddle messages with high potential for harm.
As Wallace mentioned, objectivity is close to, if not already, impossible. We all have underlying biases and values that we want to fight for, whether consciously or not. These biases need to be understood, but being an activist is the human side of journalism writers need to tap into.
As journalists, we are also voters, workers and humans all the same. Telling someone they cannot fight for what they believe in because of their job is not the way anyone should be treated. Writers should do their research, talk to people in all positions and backgrounds and gather a full understanding of their topic before coming to a conclusion.
Just as Wallace mentioned in their speech, think of the story of journalist and civil rights leader Ida B. Wells. Born into slavery, Wells worked at a black newspaper in Memphis. She watched her friends get lynched by a white mob, and a rival white paper turned the other way. Wells could not be objective on a topic that threatened her life.
Wells was a journalist, but was also an activist for the truths she had seen, researched and believed. That is how writers in the journalism profession should act today.