The Case for Transparency Over Objectivity

by | Nov 29, 2022 | News

Earlier this month, James Geary, an editor at Nieman Reports, published a letter calling into question the role of objectivity in journalism. He referenced two stories: In the first, a Black teenager in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was named as a kidnapping suspect in local media even though police never charged him with the crime. And in the second, a video went viral of a Black local community leader in Kansas City warning that Black women seemed to be disappearing from a specific intersection in the city. Many Kansas City news outlets published information from the police, describing the concerns as “rumors” or “completely unfounded.”

A white man is now awaiting trial for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of the woman in Myrtle Beach. A few weeks after the Kansas City video went viral, a Black woman escaped from the basement in the home of a white man, who is charged with rape, kidnapping, and assault after abducting her from that same intersection.

Geary contended that “these two stories are connected by journalism’s inconsistent definitions — and selective applications — of objectivity.”

He claimed that journalists’ personal connections to individual stories does not always negatively impact the quality of the reporting and would actually lead to more transparent engagement with readers. “Empathy doesn’t blind us. It allows us to see more clearly just what’s at stake for the individuals and communities on whom we report, insight that can and should bring more depth and nuance to stories.”

 

More from The Edge

The Racism of American Capital Punishment

The death penalty in America always incites controversy. Last year, Alabama took three hours to administer their lethal injection drugs. Idaho had to pause an execution for the lack of those drugs. And two people on death row were exonerated. The larger long-term...

Academic Austerity Survival Kit: 15 Ways to Make It Through

It’s bad, really bad, in higher education these days. Whether the pandemic is over or ongoing, its continuing impact has catapulted colleges and universities into a maelstrom of student disengagement, faculty quiet quitting, outright resignations, and draconian budget...

The Traumas of the Buffalo Winter Blizzard of 2022

I was 1 year old when the legendary blizzard of ’77 struck Buffalo, NY. This coincidence made me a “blizzard baby,” as my late mother Gail frequently recalled with a fond, nostalgic smile. She shared the Buffalo folklore tales of snowbanks towering to the height of...

Media Lingers on Biden Documents Story, ‘Both-Sidesing’ with Trump

Last week, the discovery of classified documents at Joe Biden’s former office and later his home sparked a flurry of news coverage, including comparisons to Donald Trump’s ongoing classified-records scandal. Critics called out false equivalency in mainstream media’s...

Investigation Points to FBI Conspiracy to Silence Martin Luther King Jr.

In the years following his death, documents related to Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder case were destroyed, and all files of FBI surveillance on King were sealed for 50 years. The suppression of information prompted human rights lawyer Dr. William Pepper and the King...

Ukrainian Journalists Reporting Amidst Bombs to Document War

On February 24, 2022, a full-scale Russian military attack changed the destinies of millions of people. Journalists overnight became, in addition to their specialization, war correspondents and war victims, mostly unprepared for reporting amidst bombs. Some...

Struggles, Solutions, Solidarities: Julia Reichert (1946-2022)

Julia sat in the basement of the Student Union at the University of Iowa engulfed in a circle of women college students wearing flannel shirts, jeans, and work boots, drinking coffee to power them through a study night at the university library. It was 1976. I was a...

A Brief Political Travelogue of an American Abroad

Traveling outside of the country poses great privileges and special challenges for Americans, given the influence that the U.S. has over the global economic and political order.  It comes with responsibilities, which all Americans should take seriously but,...