Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it
Lewis Wallace

This story is fascinating and important because it gives the prospective of a journalist (who is also an outsider) on the corporatisation of NPR. I have been noticing that NPR has not been loosing it’s willingness to hold power accountable and it is eye opening to hear how this weakening of the journalistic mission is being fostered by an unexamined notion of “objectivity”.

For example, there was a story recently on NPR about activists preparing to renew the fight over the oil pipelines (http://www.npr.org/2017/01/25/511554785/activists-prepare-to-fight-pipeline-plans-again) which did not even mention global warming. The article mentioned that “environmentalists” (I put that in quotes because NPR has been subtly pushing the narrative that environmentalists are a special interest group even though the issue could not be more in the public interest) are set against tar sands oil but did not mention the fact that tar sands oil is more costly to the environment, in terms of habitat destruction and carbon emissions, than traditional forms of oil extraction. The argument from the oil company’s perspective, that pipelines are better than rail lines, was given a full explaination.

If we look at the media landscape as a whole on the issue of the environment, there is very little mention of global warming or habitat destruction which are fact based phenomena. Environmentalist get covered in terms of the positions they take on specific issues but not in terms of the content of their arguments. This contributes to the idea that critiques of the status quo on energy production are the product of a special interest group and the fact based, public interest nature of environmental concearns is lost in the noise. The narrative of the oil companies, that we need oil for the economy and global warming is controversial, is ingrained in coverage of energy issues. The oil company perspective is given the veneer of being in the public interest even though the facts tell the story of a politically conected oligarchy who is promoting the economic interests of a few at the expense of literally everyone on the planet. “Objectivity” on the part of NPR seems to amount to a comprimise between an ill-defined special interest group and an established authority. This compromise obscures the truth and defeats the mission of journalism.

I focused on the environment here but there are a number of issues, anti-black racism being at the top of the list, where the notion of objectivity needs further examination so that we are not just compromising between ingrained false narratives and an underrepresented, fact based examination. Thanks to Lewis Wallance for having the courage to bring these issues to light.

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