Flickr / Photo by Jon S.

Is This Digital Era Affecting Journalistic Objectivity?

Recently I talked to a friend who is interested in the field of journalism. We mainly talked about journalistic objectivity. After the conversation, I went home and did some research in this domain, noticing that it is hard for journalistic objectivity to exist in today’s digital era.

The concept of objectivity has played a critical role in the domain of journalism; journalistic objectivity is about fairness, factuality and the upholding of truth. More than a century ago, the concept of objectivity in journalism first occurred, since editors realized that while taking sides would shrink their potential market of readers, being objective would bring them much more audience because there is little bias in their news.

In addition, around that same time period, media objectivity has started to develop as a reaction to all the opinionated and sensational reporting which frequently appear on newspapers. Since the explosion of internet, television and cell-phones during the digital revolution, anyone who have access to the internet could distribute any information to the whole world within a blink of eyes. While more voices are being heard, more blogs and posts begin to be opinionated; and consequently, objectivity and reality are reduced. In general, although expected to be a guiding principle in journalism, objectivity could still be affected by a number of factors, including media’s profits, the difficulty to filter out personal values or bias, and the rise of digital revolution.

People who live on Earth today are all spoiled nerd at the dawn of the digital era, what an excellent timing. As the digital revolution marches on, it becomes growingly harder for people to read news from newspapers. The emergence of new online media changes the role of journalists, who are no longer the only gatekeepers of the domain of journalism. Since anyone who has access to the internet could distribute their opinions, information and news content through blogs and personal websites to the whole world, journalists now have less control over gateways to transmission and the social structures.

Journalistic objectivity is supposed to be the guiding principle in the domain of journalism, a principle that should be infallible and beyond doubt. Journalists are supposed to be objective because it leads to truthfulness, factuality, fairness and transparency, which are exactly what the audience seeks for when they read news reports. Nevertheless, it looks like that objectivity is more like a tool for journalism, especially in this digital era; journalists try to use this tool only when it brings them more profits. But when being more sensational and taking sides could also bring them more audience, they sometimes choose to ignore this guiding principle. It may sound arbitrary to say so, because it is indeed difficult to be completely objective in writing news, but as the digital revolution continues, the concept of objectivity has gradually been affected and even faded out inevitably. If the ultimate goal of being objective turns out to be something else instead of the sake of getting the truth, the news we read, the blogs we post, and the TV shows we watch would eventually be more about “what we say about the world” instead of “how the world really is." 

Flickr / Photo by Jon S.