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Many journalists say it’s time to jettison traditional objectivity and focus more directly on pursuing the truth. As I wrote in a previous post, I think objectivity is still a valuable newsgathering tool. But one thing that complicates this discussion is the fact that there are different kinds of truth. Some truths are the kind reporters can uncover and illuminate. Others, not so much. For example, let’s say your editor assigns you to write a story about whether the death penalty has been an effective deterrent to crime. In other words, do states with the death penalty have lower homicide rates than those without? ForRead More →

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Every few years, an old debate re-emerges in journalism: Is objectivity a good thing? The debate goes something like this: Objectivity opponents argue that journalism at its best should be about the pursuit of truth. Traditional he said-she said reporting, which requires that journos document both sides of every argument and refrain from making their own judgments, may be objective but does nothing to reveal the truth, they say. Journalist Wesley Lowery recently summed up this view in a tweet: American view-from-nowhere, “objectivity”-obsessed, both-sides journalism is a failed experiment. We need to fundamentally reset the norms of our field. The old way must go. WeRead More →

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With great power comes great responsibility, the saying goes. And in the United States, the press has an enormous amount of power and yes, responsibility. That’s because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates that the press not be controlled by the government, in contrast to many countries around the world, where press freedom is either severely curtailed or nonexistent. That unparalleled level of freedom has made the American news media very powerful. But that doesn’t mean reporters can simply publish anything they want, and in the U.S., libel law is where the power of the press and its responsibilities intersect. So every reporterRead More →

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What’s the difference between journalism and public relations, a reader asks. Good question. Broadly speaking, journalism is about finding the truth. Public relations, on the other hand, is about presenting a person, company, agency or institution in the best light possible. For instance, let’s say your college decides to raise the cost of tuition. The college’s PR department will no doubt issue a press release that will probably talk about the increase being modest but necessary, and how, even with the hike, the school remains affordable. All of that may be perfectly true, but chances are the college’s press release won’t include any quotes fromRead More →