Looking into the guts of journalism

Paul Bradshaw, as seems to be his way, is totally on the money when he points out that the Washington Post’s leaked social media strategy is heavily influenced by the brand’s need to preserve an image of objectivity.

Objectivity in journalism may be a honorable aim but, if you’re going to be pragmatic about it, the idea that it exists in reality is total bunk.

Transparency, Paul argues, is a much better aspiration:

Transparency is hastening the demise of the already crumbling notion of journalistic objectivity; but it also represents the best hope for journalistic integrity – and ultimately, for many journalists that was what the pursuit of objectivity was about.

On a personal level  I feel much more comfortable and honest attempting to make as much of the process of news production transparent. I try and do it for myself as much as I can.

The problem, I think, is the power of the “objectivity” lie.  However and for whatever reason it was created, people do seem to cling to it.

Media-savvy commentators like Paul know that this industry is a system of complex interests and it is made up of many well-meaning, bright, motivated and, ultimately, falliable human beings. But does everyone else?

My experience is that many people massively overestimate the ability of journalists to create “objective” news stories. However, when their experience demonstrates to them that this is not happening, they move to the other extreme and assume we are all guilty of consciously peddling outright lies.

By opening up the guts of the journalism process through true transparency – not a faux version designed to placate disgruntled readers – a news organisation may find that in the short-to-medium term the policy creates little more than a swathe of disillusioned readers.

That’s a scary prospect for any news brand, especially if you consider competitors such as the BBC will not be dropping their objectivity claims any time soon.

I guess anyone brave enough to go through such a change would have to be very clever about how they nurture, educate and explain the process to their readers.

I would, of course, love to hear from anyone who has gone through it.