I recently posed that (admittedly pretentious) question to the Journalist and Journalism Group on LinkedIn, and yesterday Alexander Rheeney, who describes himself as a self-employed writer and editor in Papua, New Guinea, posted a comment.
Because the exchange encapsulates one of the fundamental purposes of this blog, I am posting the original question, Mr. Rheeney’s comment, and my response.
NOTE: I’ve edited it a bit for clarity and [my] typographical blunders:
March 3, 2011 (my original post):
I’m exploring applying the techniques of informal logic (aka critical thinking) to journalism research, analysis, writing, and reporting.
I believe that restoring rigorous credibility to our stories will help burnish our tarnished image (clichés, anyone?). On the face of it, I’d like some opinions. Anyone?
March 4, 2011 (Mr. Rheeney):
Roger, interesting indeed. For journalists I think colleagues will be torn between
‘objective writing vs subjective writing (critical analysis)’. But hey I sometimes don’t mind stepping outside the box and looking at issues from a different perspective
March 5, 2011 (me):
Thanks for the comment, Alexander.
I take your point, and it’s a good one. It also prompts me to ask: “Is it time to revisit the ‘objective vs. subjective writing’” argument?
With the increasing use of social media in reporting, are gatekeepers becoming irrelevant? And, if so, what does that do to objectivity?
And, either way, does that change the *perception* of objectivity? Or, is the question itself even relevant?
My very humble opinion is that: 1) careful and critical examination of sources for credibility; 2) context and background be provided when necessary and appropriate; and , 3) that care and thought be given to stories, so that all of the points in a piece lead to a clear and unambiguous conclusion based on the facts of what has preceded it.
Most of my opinions regarding this topic have been informed by the writings of Neil Postman and 5 semesters teaching Reasoning & Critical Thinking to community college students at Southern Nevada College, [Note: It's actually the College of Southern Nevada. My bad.] so I’m certainly not an objective observer:
I firmly believe that applying the techniques and mindset of informal logic to journalistic research, analysis, writing, and reporting—what I’ve taken to calling “Critical Journalism” (shameless plug alert: see my blog at www.rogerscime.com)—will help us provide the public what Carl Bernstein calls, “the best obtainable version of the truth,” and thus restore our craft to the public respect it deserves. I know that was an awfully awkward run-on sentence but—hey—this is only social media . . . right? 8^)
BTW, unless you have any objections, I’m going to post this thread on my blog. Er . . . did I mention it’s at www.rogerscime.com?
I’ve posted this exchange as an example of how individuals can often see things differently—and how both can easily be right: Mr. Rheeney saw my question as asking about subjective journalism vs. objective journalism, while my point was more directly aimed at the informal-logic side of the paradigm; however, objectivity-vs-subjectivity will play a significant role in upcoming entries in this blog, something I had—admittedly—back-benched as a topic.
I thank Mr. Rheeney for reminding me of its importance to Critical Journalism.
Comments on this post are welcome.