Objective journalism is a model within the journalism world that revolves around hard facts, instead of opinion. This type of journalism is supposed to be unbiased, which discredits any opinion columns. These articles must include verified facts, and if they aren’t verified, you as the writer are held accountable. It follows the inverted-pyramid style of reporting (Campbell 2017). This model answers the most news-worthy questions at the top and then trickles down to the less significant details. The new reliance on this pyramid ultimately signaled journalism’s break away from partisan tradition (Campbell 2017).
The idea of objective journalism was created by Adolph Ochs, who bought the New York Times in 1896 (Campbell 2017). This early development of the hard-news paradigm has led to a widespread use of objective reporting elements in American press (Esser and Umbricht 2014). Ochs had originally created this model as a marketing strategy against Hearst and Pulitzer papers (Campbell 2017). He took an informative approach instead of sensationalizing his paper. This approach was originally targeted at “affluent and educated readers”, but soon attracted everyone when Ochs dropped the paper’s price to a penny (Campbell 2017). The concept soon became a root of journalism in the United States as many reporters began taking this factual approach.
The European press also attempted to adapt this hard-news paradigm, but it did not have the same success story as the United States. American journalism revolved around fact-digging while many European countries had groups of “high literary creators and cosmopolitan political thinkers” (Esser and Umbricht 2014). This forces European Press to find themselves caught in between the hard-news American ideal and British tradition (Esser and Umbricht 2014). This tradition is exactly what Adolph Ochs moved away from with the New York Times. Europe’s initial indecision is what caused them to fall behind while American journalism flourished with it’s objective approach.
In today’s world objectivity is extremely important not only in journalism, but also in broadcasting. Papers and news stations risk the loss of readers/listeners if they begin to pick sides with the event they are reporting on. People are not going to continue listening to slander about what they believe in. Many news consumers know what they believe and agree with before even reading the story. Therefore, they do not want opinions from their news source, but instead want just the facts. Opinions ultimately skew the reality of a situation.
A major question raised with objective journalism is if it conflicts with journalists’ tradition role of raising awareness of important issues (Campbell 2017). Can we raise awareness but also be unbiased? Or would raising awareness around an issue put a biased emphasis on it? This is the controversy that surrounds the “perfect” objective model in journalism. However, objective journalism can and is still attainable in today’s society. Journalists are still stating the facts, and many are avoiding their own instinct to even hint at an opinion. Regardless of the story a journalist is covering, the first and most important obligation in objective journalism is the truth.
Campbell, R., Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.
Esser, F. f, & Umbricht, A. (2014). The Evolution of Objective and Interpretative Journalism in the Western Press: Comparing Six News Systems since the 1960s. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 91(2), 229-249.
Image Attribution: The image used in the entry is in the Public Domain.
Written by Jacklyn Russo, 2017