What is journalistic objectivity?
For the past couple of years, I have been struggling with the journalistic principle of ‘objectivity’. How does one strike a neutral tone when, increasingly, what I was reporting on as a political journalist and columnist involves the lies and divisive rhetoric of politicians in Europe and the United States?
It is about taking the time to understand how we live today, and how we can do it better
It became clear to me that the objectivity principle only worked in a political climate where there was no major upheaval and no real need to question the very foundations of a political system. Otherwise, striving for objectivity means that journalists actually end up obscuring the truth by reaching for euphemism and neutrality in tone. Coupled with the fact that news coverage is now so reactive rather than reflective, the challenge in presenting a clear account of reality, with the necessary pause and process that takes, became even greater.
When I first heard of The Correspondent, what struck me was its commitment to reflection, to the process. Ironically, as an online-only publication, it harks back to the time of print-only news, when there was time in between print deadlines to sit on an item and see how it reverberated in the world. It is much more than the (very clever) slogan of ‘Unbreaking the News’ – it is about taking the time to understand how we live today, and how we can do it better.
Moving beyond binaries
This is where The Correspondent’s membership conversation model is so compelling. Engaging meaningfully and respectfully with a site’s members, getting their feedback, and taking the time to produce something enlightening has always been the holy grail, and I believe the model The Correspondent has struck upon achieves this in a way that places a writer where they should be, at the intersection of events and the audience.
I hope this experience will not only help me envision a better politics, but also make me a better writer
In my own writing I have always asked myself one question: am I making a point, or am I getting somewhere? Increasingly, politics and social media are set up for point scoring, not resolution. As a journalist whose focus is on how to move beyond binaries and land on how easy it is to achieve a better politics if only we are less scared and more ambitious, I am joining The Correspondent to learn from its members how to achieve this on the ground across 130 countries.
I think of it as a giant crowd-sourced global research project that, for me, will be an education – how borders can work better, how societies can accommodate their new members, how appealing to the basest of populist instincts can be countered by full-throated, detailed, non-reactive political campaigns. I hope this experience will not only help me envision a better politics, but also make me a better writer.
This article first appeared on Medium.com.