I'll have much more on this later, but Jeff Jarvis gives a preview to a discussion he and I will be taking part of this morning at the Museum of Television and Radio centered on objectivity and opinion in the news:
The question isn't whether opinion should be injected into news. The issue is about revealing the perspective, opinion, and bias that already exist. It's about transparency — into a journalist's viewpoint and also into the process of news judgment. It's time to unlock the sausage factory.I'm with Jeff up to a point, transparency being what we're all about here at PE. But I'm not sure we need a litany of every "perspective, opinion and bias" that could conceivably affect a journalist or report. Most often this discussion is cast in terms of politics, the war in Iraq or other hotly debated topics. Jarvis adds this thought:
Sometimes it's easier to discuss this in arenas other than politics. At yet another seminar on news and opinion, an editor raised the example of a reporter covering a smoking ban. If the reporter smokes, don't we have a right to know that? If we catch the reporter outside the office catching a puff and we say, "gotcha," isn't that a problem? Should journalists ever be on the other end of a "gotcha"?Intellectual honesty is imperative for a good reporter but that is something proven only over time. Does knowing in individual journalist's personal opinions or biases really matter or does it actually make being honest harder because everyone is aware of them? Could it result in over-compensation on the part of the reporter? If a journalist is reporting on a smoking ban, does it really make one bit of difference whether that individual smokes? Why?
But none of this means that just because you have a relevant perspective on a topic in the news, that doesn't mean you shouldn't cover it. Nor does it mean you should. A good reporter must be intellectually honest and report the facts no matter whose perspective they may bolster.