It’s Hard To Find Passion In Objectivity
Ever since I started studying journalism, the number one thing our teachers at UCLA have emphasized is this: BE. OBJECTIVE.
Don’t bring your own opinions or biases into the story. Look at things from all angles. Get multiple points of view. Check everything.
For a while, I felt overwhelmed and stressed with the idea of writing objectively. I was extremely cautious of what my biases are and made sure not to bring any of them onto the keyboard. I overanalyzed every single word and thought.
Everything I wrote felt boring and lame. Detached, inauthentic.
I felt defeated. The reason I wanted to study journalism was that I cared so much about certain topics. I wanted to learn ways to research and report accurately but not without passion. How am I supposed to write about something I care about if I can’t have an opinion on it? How will I be able to write with emotion and honesty if I have to hide what I think? Will I have to sacrifice what I find is important just to remain unbiased?
A fellow student of mine made a great point: Writing completely objectively is impossible. Already when deciding what to write about, we are choosing what we think is important and worthwhile our time right now. Whose story do we decide should be told, whose voice matters? What is timely, what is not?
In 2017, Tom Warhover wrote an introductory statement, “What is the role of a journalist in a post-objectivity world?”, for a panel discussion held at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, Los Angeles. Warhover recognizes the problem with objective journalism today as such: “It was meant to be about how we do what we do. Over time, it has been warped to become an ethos of who we are”.
In his statement, he proposes we think about the following ideas:
We shouldn’t remove the core ideals associated with objectivity, that is verifying facts, checking sources.
We should recommit to the obligation of journalism, which is to tell the truth.
We should have more emphasis on making sense of rather than endlessly gathering more and more information on whatever it is we write about.
We should allow our point of view and emotion to re-enter how we tell stories.
”Humility allows us to ask the extra question. To say, essentially, tell me more. Tell me more why you don’t believe what I believe, on climate change or affordable housing or education. Allow me the opportunity to learn something from you.”
I felt reassured. Maybe objectivity doesn’t have to mean that I can’t have an opinion. Maybe it just means that I should be open to others as well and never assume I know it all or understand it all. Maybe it just means that I have to remain honest and truthful, present facts, but never lose sight of what I value and find important, and never be afraid to show that in my writing.