Journalism beyond objectivity



Trustworthy journalism respects the expectations of truthfulness from its sources and audiences

For the tiny portion of the unlikely readership that is still interested in journalism studies, a must-read document has just come out: Beyond objectivity – producing credible news in today's newsrooms (Beyond objectivity – producing trustworthy news in today's newsrooms). Published by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communications (Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication), Arizona State University (Arizona State University), in partnership with the Stanton Foundation, the booklet shows that the concept we had of objective reporting has entered a crisis.

Both authors are renowned names in the profession. Leonard Downie Jr., professor at the Walter Cronkite School, made a career in the newspaper The Washington Post, where he became executive editor. Andrew Heyward, professor at the same college, was president of CBS News between 1996 and 2005. After consulting a reputable bibliography, the duo interviewed 76 people who hold key positions in the press in the United States and reached a non-trivial conclusion: the word “objectivity”, so dear to the tradition of newspapers, is out of fashion (outmoded). Reporters and editors no longer have the same taste in pronouncing it. The term no longer names the central requirement of credibility, as “it has lost its power to define the highest standards of journalistic excellence”.

Of course, Leonard Downie Jr. and Andrew Heyward do not recommend disregarding the facts. Their project is to go beyond – not below – objectivity. The new generations of journalists, who distrust this noun, throw their best energies into others, such as “accuracy” and “truth”.

The starting point continues to be the verifiable facts – at this point, nothing new under the sun – but nobody manages to tell the truth just by listing facts. More than investigating what happened, journalism needs to illuminate the context hidden under the surface and take into account the multiple perspectives of analysis, without falling into the trap of biased narratives.

Yes, it got harder. The journalistic function, which was no longer simple, is now more complex. Coverage must report events, of course, but it cannot stop there; you need to escape the bureaucratic attitude of just writing down what happened and then collecting a statement against and another in favor. downey jr. and Hayward are categorical: “Avoid the lazy approach of 'otherness' (both-sides-ism). "

It is not a question of neglecting reality, by no means, but of looking further afield. It's about examining the background and deciphering the reasoned opinions that conflict. The journalistic text is only really good when, in addition to narrating what happened, it exudes thought. Only then will it reflect the real and reflect on the real.

To sum up, what went into crisis was not the attempt to capture the objective data of reality, but the arrogance with which many waved the flag of objectivity. It cannot continue like this. There is no longer any use for the reporter who describes an episode in an olympic way, listens to a favorable source and another contrary and, with that, considers the work closed – the citizen who turns around to find the conclusion. The responsible press has no part with indifference. Either she vibrates along with the audience or she will be isolated.

It is in this sense that good journalistic writing seeks to reveal the forces that fight to make one interpretation or another prevail, makes its working method clear, opens its eyes to diversity and shares with the public the values ​​and principles that guide it. It all boils down to a question of honesty, on three simultaneous fronts: honesty to report what happened, to scrutinize the context and, thirdly, not to hide your own commitments.

The ideal of cold precision – which has always been a form of positivist imposture – has lapsed. Above it must be the frank relationship with the audience. Trustworthy journalism respects the truthfulness expectations of its sources and its audiences alike, just as it respects its internal coherence. Thus, it weaves the dialogue between active subjects in a civilized and peaceful pattern. In other words, journalism is done in rational intersubjectivity.

In a book published in 2000, About Ethics and the Press (Companhia das Letras), I dealt with the theme myself. I quote a single sentence: “When journalism seeks objectivity, it is seeking to establish a critical intersubjective field between the agents who work there: the subjects who produce the fact, those who observe and report it and those who become aware of the fact”. The idea is still valid.

Objectivity in the press translates into active intersubjectivity. No militant discourse, far from it. Good journalism tends to be warmer – more engaged, if you like –, but it should not be confused with propaganda, pamphlets or partisan proselytism. The primacy of factual truth is still alive, much more than objective. What he wants from us is independence and intelligence.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of The superindustry of the imaginary (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.

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