The Feasibility of an Ideal Watchdog

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Journalism, Objective Journalism

The ideal goal of professional journalism has always been to provide objective news and information to the masses to ensure they are informed enough to make intelligent decisions. This goal has become tougher and tougher as technology has flooded the world of media with misinformation. Resisting bias for a journalist can be the hardest part of the occupation. Everyone possesses their own opinions and thoughts; the challenge for a professional is to curb those biases in their writings. The blogosphere has made that a near impossibility for most people since they can spew their ideas all over the world from the safe confines of their own home. But, for an employed journalist, they must prevent their beliefs from spilling out onto their keyboards to preserve the integrity of their hard-earned credibility. So, the question at the forefront of the journalism world in this day and age is: Is there still hope for objective journalism?

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller doesn’t believe so, according to this article from thehill.com. He believes the watchdog has dissipated into a 24-hour “barkfest” that has plagued our televisions with rumors and a lack of concern for the facts. He couldn’t be more right; in certain situations. Sure, it’s widely known that FoxNews and MSNBC have political agendas which drive their opinionated time slots. But, we live in an age where sitting on your couch and watching television should not be the only way a person consumes news and information. The internet is readily available almost anywhere and it provides vast amounts of truthful information for people to see. Wait, there is probably just as much bullshit on the net, if not more than television. We can’t forget about good ole fashioned print journalism. It may be dying, but it’s not dead yet folks. Surely, we can rely on the faithful newspapers that have been around since Gutenberg (And no, not Steve Guttenberg from 80s film classics such as Police Academy and Short Circuit). But, alas, there is still an incredible amount of incredibility in the world of newspapers. So, what is a hopelessly romantic journalist to do with the present state of the media?

Work harder and harder to make reliable journalism available to the public. Perhaps, objectivity is an utopian ideal that many perfectionists would find a hard time achieving. Then again, nobody is perfect. If objectivity is the supreme goal, falling just short of that could be sufficient enough. Is it not good enough reporting to provide all the facts necessary to a story in order to involve all the truth available, with just a slight pinch of subjective material? People want their opinions and ideas heard and with the popularity of talking heads, apparently people want to hear others opinions as well. Regardless of whether they want to hear arguments that support their beliefs, if a writer can smack them in the face with the truth and they still don’t believe it, the writer can’t be held accountable for the readers misbeliefs.

Now, being the student journalist I am, all I know of the field is to aim at being objective. On the other hand, being the human being that I am, I have strong opinions that I struggle to bottle up inside. So, being the blue-hearted American I’ve grown into I could probably sit and banter about the evils of NewsCorp and the utter disgust I have for Sarah Palin, but today I will take the upper roadway and offer the only solution I have to this forever evolving issue.

There is no clear cut way to eliminate subjective journalism, but I have perhaps a foolish faith in objective journalism as well. In my first semester at Stony Brook University, I took probably the most useful and all-around beneficial course to all Americans, News Literacy (No, this is not a shameful plug for Dean Schneider’s course). This course can teach anybody how to become an intelligent news consumer and learn how to accurately decipher the crap that bombards us everyday. This course should be mandatory for all freshman in all colleges across the country. How is a young adult going to know what to trust in a world filled with such deceit? This course gives us the ammo we need to defend ourselves. I’d even go as far as to say it could be installed in high schools as well. I do see a problem with a lack of interest since most high school students are simply looking forward to what they’re going to do over the weekend and not who they’re going to vote for in the next election.

Truth is, I really don’t know if an unbiased media will survive in the future. I really hope so, cause if an occupation as necessary as journalism loses it’s supreme goal, there’s not much hope for our youth. Everyone needs goals in life. Sometimes the long term goals don’t always pan out, but if you can manage to achieve a whole bunch of short term goals along the way, you didn’t do too bad. That objective goal has been around for a long time, but it seems to be getting further and further away. Hopefully, journalism doesn’t ever give up on it though. For now, I’ll keep my faith objectively optimistic.

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