The Impartial Journalist Becomes the Deceitful Journalist?

by TarikA on April 10, 2014 - 2:00am

In an Op-Ed piece published on October 27, 2013 by Bill Keller of The New York Times – titled “Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of News?” – a conversation takes place between the mentioned author and former Guardian reporter, Glenn Greenwald. The exchange between the two men, which is spurred by Greenwald’s outspoken criticism of newspapers like The New York Times and his announced departure from the Guardian, focuses primarily (through its seven page length) on the issue of objectivity and impartiality in journalism. On one side of the debate, we find Greenwald, famous for his exposé on the N.S.A.’s controversial surveillance program, arguing that the idea of objective and impartial reporting is a falsehood and that journalism is a form of activism, wherein subjectivism is either professed to the public, or hidden in the shadows. For Greenwald, to state that any journalist is without opinion is completely false, as he concludes that all “journalism has a point of view and a set of interests it advances.” In other words, Greenwald views the purported objectivity of journalists as nothing more than a cover for the nationalistic or partisan biases that are firmly entrenched within the news organizations that they represent.

On the other side of this debate lies Bill Keller, formerly the executive editor of The New York Times, who responds to Greenwald’s claims by asserting, firstly, that all reporters do not simply pretend that “they have no opinions.” For him, the idea that all journalists are concealing their interests and biases behind the proverbial veil of objectivity or impartiality is unlikely. Rather, Keller feels that the nature of being impartial and of withholding opinion is simply an “occupational discipline” and that journalists must let the facts speak for themselves at all times when informing the public. Though Keller agrees that objectivity is more myth than reality in regards to reporting news, he pushes Greenwald on the notion that impartiality is a better purveyor of truth than deceit in journalism, and that it is also something that the general public needs now more than ever, considering the visibly polemical and sensational nature of the news media today.


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As an individual intending to pursue the journalistic profession, I could talk about this subject for hours. I don't really have to, however, to express the entirety of my viewpoint. I know from experience that unless one is writing about a purely factual topic, and rather briefly writing about the subject at that, there will be an expressed point of view. It is impossible to write without expressing some form of viewpoint, because of what a viewpoint, definitively, is; the way in which a topic is perceived. You cannot express something without perceiving it in a set format. because of this, you cannot effectively express anything without a point of view, because no audience could perceive that expression.
That being said, the only way to maintain any semblance of the idealized journalistic integrity is to express, equally, as multiple opposing viewpoints. This allows the audience to chose the way in which they create their own opinions on the topic. In the end, this is an incredibly interesting, well written article, and you did a very good job summarizing it.

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