Objective journalism - dead or drowned out?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · June 20, 2008 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2a4

What do "lame," "out of style," "dinosaur," and "outmoded," have in common? They're how four people in the news business described "objective journalism." In many ways, I agree. Objective journalism may not be dead, but it's definitely drowned out on the Web. I've outlined three reasons why it's on the ropes.

Reason 1: The more you know, the less objective you become 

When I first started off my career as a television journalist at CNN, I recall one of the producers asking why I wasn’t objective. I said, “If you know the material and subject matter you’re covering, how can you be?” It’s no wonder that while working at MarketWatch, they made me a columnist rather than a beat reporter. I just, well, have opinions. In the video, Pete Vlastelica, CEO of Yardbarker, underscores my point. He puts it this way: "If you’re reading some guy who’s pretending to be objective, what that means is he’s not a fan; Or he’s lying; Or he’s pretending. It’s lame.” 

Fortunately or unfortunately for you – dear reader - on the Web, you don’t have to listen, read or watch the anointed few who rise above bureaucratic ranks to be in front of you as "experts with opinions." On the Web, you’re connected to millions of people with, well, opinions. As Alan Citron, GM of TMZ, said in this video: "The middleman is gone." Hence, it’s this fragmented media world that makes objectivity seem elusive.

Reason 2: Subjectivism can be closer to the truth, and more genuine 

Often people who are writing, err, blogging these days are closer to the story than you or I, or a journalist is, or ever will be. It’s no wonder the news and information we consume is no longer “objective.” It doesn’t have to be, particularly when you get the information straight from the source, or from someone who has skin in the game, or is closely affiliated with the situation. It’s why I like reading Mark Cuban, Fred Wilson or Jeremy Liew. They write about what they know. They’re hardly objective. But just because they're not objective doesn’t mean they're not offering up some truth. In many ways, objectivity doesn't equate to truth. I'd rather read an informed opinion about a topic than an article with two random opposing quotes slapped on top of a press release.  

Reason 3: Personality and opinion matters

The other reason why objectivity is being drowned out is because the audience wants to connect with a personality. This isn't new at all, of course. You've seen the big personalities on television for years from Jim Cramer on Mad Money to Chris Matthews on Hardball. Personality sells. And, it's just as true online.  It's one of the only ways to stand out. "People have to differentiate through tone," said Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix.net

Final point: I may or may not be pointing out anything new about where objective journalism is going. But clearly, one thing these new "news" men have in common is their desire to aggregate as many voices as possible. It's in their best interest to drown out objective journalism. It's in their interest to sell soapboxes.

So, is objective journalism dead or drowned out? Here's what Drew Curtis, founder of Fark, said: "Objectivity was a concept that appeared “in the 1940’s, but it hasn’t been around in a while.” 


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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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