Objectivity is a word that means representing facts in a way that is not influenced by personal judgements or feelings. The principle behind this word is something I was told journalists strive for in their work and I took to the idea like the obese to Mars Bars.
I came to think that being objective in journalism is what made the news correct, just, informative and right, the basis of ideals that kept democracy going and superman flying. We had right to the truth in our news, unbiased by human emotions and I was the vessel that carried this truth.
When I first started at the paper I was keen to get my own objectivity out there. I could practically taste the stories I would dissect and impartially explain in bold print. Journalist Alexandra Falls, defender of ‘what really happened’.
I was brought back to earth when I realised a story about horses coming to town didn’t exactly require the iron fist of objective journalism. But when the Federal Election was called, I thought it was my time to report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The trouble was I realised I wasn’t required to be objective as much I was required to not get the paper sued by spouting anything that could be mildly perceived as political bias, which was pretty much anything. My editor informed me that they once had complaints about one candidate’s photo being larger than another’s.
Suddenly objective journalism was much more complicated.
Regardless of wether I thought a candidate was intelligent, confused, a good handshaker or a ranting buffoon I needed to remain carefully neutral in all that I wrote. I felt like I wasn’t creating profiles for each minister as much as I was carefully assessing a pack of dynamite over and over, looking for loose detonating wires.
Slowly, painfully and importantly I realised it wasn’t in my job description to act as journalism’s Dark Knight. The political opponents tore shreds off each other and I reported the straight facts and figures as fairly as possible.
Now, for me, being objective means stripping each sentence of subjective language, striving to be fair and balanced and never thinking of myself as a renegade pen-wielding superhero.
Which brings me to current debate question; what does the term objectivity in journalism mean to you?