Monday, October 26, 2009

The Object of Objectivity

By Candace Gawler

Objectivity simply means not to be influenced by personal feelings or prejudice, based on facts or unbiased. The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘objective’ as “not influenced by personal feelings or opinions; considering only facts.”Well that’s all very well ‘a thing that is known to be true’- a fact. What is truth? As we are steadily learning as journalism students, it is a rather ambivalent term. As some might realise there are what I like to call versions of the truth. I may see a chinchilla and you may see a long-haired cat, neither of us is wrong, both statements are the truth so surely one of us was being subjective. However they are both seemingly objective observations. If I say ‘it is a chinchilla” am I being any less objective by saying “I see a chinchilla’ just because of the inclusion of ‘I’ in the statement? In journalism whether writing in the fist or third person there is an ‘I’ sitting behind the desk writing the story. Objectivity cannot exist. It is simply impossible to be entirely objective. Humans are the most emotional of all beings. As a journalist you present your version of the events, they cannot be deemed incorrect however they are seen from your perspective and it is impossible to remove yourself. As Einstein so cleverly pointed out- it is all relative. Everything is relative to our perspective. You and I may see the same thing however my version will probably differ from yours. An interesting article called “Objectivity in journalism is an illusion” (http://inwent-iij-lab.org/Weblog/2009/07/31/objectivity-in-journalism-is-an-illusion/) may help you understand and realise that objectivity is an incredibly stupid and idealistic concept. “Objectivity and journalism: an essay” (http://nebuchadnezzarwoollyd.blogspot.com/2007/02/objectivity-and-journalism-essay.html) is a very interesting take on this goal of objectivity we journalists-in-the making strive for. I have decided it is an absurd notion that should be dropped. We should not aim to be objective, it is impossible. We should aim to present the truth from our perspective. The truth, even with all its versions may just matter a bit more than objectivity. Some would see objectivity as a means to presenting the truth- but don’t fool yourself. You don’t have the capacity to be objective I’m afraid, after all, you are only human.

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