Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Myth of Objectivity

The journalistic pursuit of objectivity (in the sense of being free of bias, prejudice and emotion) is a fool's errand not worth pursuing for the simple reason that it's unattainable. We're all saddled with our biases, emotions and prejudices (and oftentimes we're oblivious as to what they are). A more realistic goal is to strive for fairness while working assiduously to identify and account for our biases and prejudices. Competent journalists can be fair without providing an unwarranted platform for ideas that can be easily refuted.

Selection bias already skews the issues that reporters address. Given limited time and finite resources, there's no objective criteria for determining what to cover. If the selection is biased (as it needs to be), then by definition the coverage will be biased. Acknowledgement of known biases can help the perception of fairness.

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