Type of Document Master's Thesis Author Lane, Les L. URN etd-1114101-191429 Title A Reexamination of the Canon of Objectivity in American Journalism Degree Master of Mass Communication (M.M.C.) Department Mass Communication Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Louis A. Day Committee Chair Alan D. Fletcher Committee Member Richard A. Nelson Committee Member Keywords
- history of objectivity
Date of Defense 2001-10-15 Availability unrestricted AbstractJournalistic objectivity is the definitive canon of American mainstream journalism. Yet American journalists cannot agree on what it is, how it is measured, or on how it is done. The source of the confusion is the assumption that objectivity is an ideal, absolute, impossible, incomprehensible, value-free state of being, outside of all physical, cognitive, psychological, and social contexts, where reality is perceived without distortions of any kind. This assumption is logically invalid and historically inaccurate. Journalistic objectivity evolved from the American cultural premises of egalitarianism and positive scientific empiricism through four historical stages: Nonpartisanship, Neutrality, Focus-On-Facts, and Detachment. It is possible, comprehensible, and reflects specific values.
Within the context of journalism, there is no absolute truth. A "truth" is an interpretation
of reality that passes three tests-coherence, correspondence and pragmatism--within a specific
context. There are as many potential "truths" as there are contexts from which to determine
those truths. With so many potential truths, chaos is unavoidable unless an added dimension of
truth is identified. That added dimension is "objectivity." "Objective" truths are interpretations
of reality that pass the three tests of truth within the largest, most information-rich contexts.
An "objective" journalist is one who gathers interpretations of reality (true or not) from
the smaller contexts of news participants, and presents them faithfully and accurately to the larger
context of news consumers, so that the most objective truth (the one that everyone in the large
context can agree on) can be determined. In order to do this, an objective journalist has to be
able to surf contexts. Therefore, "journalistic objectivity" is the ability to surf contexts, or
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