Bias Disclosure, Objectivity, and Other Goodies
For my final turn at bat, I thought I'd look at the first section of the Code of Ethics: Be Honest and Fair.
These are three of the bullets:
• Never publish information they know is inaccurate — and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt.
• Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
• Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
In short, it's a blogger's obligation–or at least a blogger who subscribes to this Code of Ethics–to make it clear what you're talking about,whether you have a vested interest, and whether you're making assertions or citing facts.
Sounds like basic common sense, yes? But keep in mind that the concept of objective journalism is relatively new; in the Civil War era, newspapers unabashedly had an opinion and weren't afraid to show it–much like many bloggers today.
More of an issue to me is that we've had a number of instances of severely biased journalists not disclosing that they wee on the payroll of some organization. And of course, we have one-sided coverage on the part of (just to cite one example) Fox News that pretends to be objective but in reality is anything but “fair and balanced.” I rather prefer the 19th century newspapers, often named after a political party, where you didn't have to figure out where they stand.
I am not sure there actually is such a thing as “objective journalism.” Every article or broadcast has a point of view, and any story can be told a dozen or a hundred ways. The question to me is whether the biases are identified.
Well, it's been fun. Thanks for reading here, and for making comments. I'd love to see more comments on my own blog. Come join the party. I'm about to make a post about Iraq–and my bias will be clear in the post.