“The Battle to be Objective”
New literacy is something that I really haven’t thought that much about, so what does it mean to be news literate exactly? According to the News Literacy and Media Literacy PowerPoint created by Megan Fromm, “To be news literate is to build knowledge, think critically, act civilly and participate in the democratic process.” News literacy is a process, a skill set and an acquired disposition, indicated Fromm. There were many other topics that the PowerPoint discussed, but the most interesting thing to me was, “the battle to be objective.”
As a former intern as a sports journalist, and as I’ve learned in many classes here at Chestnut Hill College, journalists have to be objective rather than subjective. I have to admit that being objective is one of the hardest things to do. Being objective simply means giving information without any personal bias.
If personal bias is involved, then a journalist is not being objective, but they are being subjective. As easy as it may sound, it is very difficult because everyone has their own thoughts and beliefs on a situation, but as a news journalist, your job is often just to break the story and give your audience the information needed to make sense of a particular story. It is then the audience’s job to have their personal feelings and beliefs.
As if it wasn’t hard enough, being an objective reporter becomes even harder when you are stationed in war. As the PowerPoint explains, Chip Reid of NBC was stationed with a Marine unit in the middle of war. Imagine how biased he must have felt when he had to report exactly what was going on? Think about it, the man is stationed in the middle of war, and his only protection from death was the Marines unit that he was embedded with.
In this article, Reid says, “not to mention the fact that reporters became friends with and in many cases (definitely my case), admired the troops that they were covering.” You can’t truly believe that it is easy to completely break yourself off from the experience and not have any personal bias towards the story at all.
What is REALLY News?
Sometimes, like Reid stated, those friends, admirers, role models, or heroes question your story. As Reid explained,
For example, there was no doubt in my mind that the story of the two girls’ death was newsworthy. Civilian deaths are a tragic, but important part of war. But after I reported it, a couple of Marines asked me why I put it on the air. They said it would make the Marines look bad. They were surprised, they said, because they thought I was their “friend.” They even asked me whose side I was on.
I, personally, have never been put in that situation, but just imagining it, I really do not know if I could do it. To complicate matters even more, this is Reid’s country that he is reporting on. He has to be the one to make his country’s beloved Marines look cruel and horrific.
Objectivity sounds very easy, but when all aspects are put together, what you thought was easy, turns out to be something extremely hard to do. When you are given a favor, or in Reid’s case, protected by the Marines, it is hard to just forget about that experience and show of good will.
However, many of the reporters in the United States, with the exception of a couple of news stations (Fox News, MSNBC, CNN) do a very good job of keeping their personal bias to themselves and just reporting the news story as it is.