“Objectivity Has Got To Go”: News Leaders Call for the End of Objective Journalism

We previously discussed the movement in journalism schools to get rid of principles of objectivity in journalism. Advocacy journalism is the new touchstone in the media even as polls show that trust in the media is plummeting. Now, former executive editor for The Washington Post Leonard Downie Jr. and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward have released the results of their interviews with over 75 media leaders and concluded that objectivity is now considered reactionary and even harmful. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor-in-chief at the San Francisco Chronicle said it plainly: “Objectivity has got to go.” 

Notably, while Bob Woodward and others have finally admitted that the Russian collusion coverage lacked objectivity and resulted in false reporting, media figures are pushing even harder against objectivity as a core value in journalism.

We have been discussing the rise of advocacy journalism and the rejection of objectivity in journalism schools. Writerseditorscommentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. This movement includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy.

Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll decried how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”  Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.”

Lauren Wolfe, the fired freelance editor for the New York Times, has not only gone public to defend her pro-Biden tweet but published a piece titled I’m a Biased Journalist and I’m Okay With That.” 

Former New York Times writer (and now Howard University Journalism Professor) Nikole Hannah-Jones is a leading voice for advocacy journalism.

Indeed, Hannah-Jones has declared “all journalism is activism.” Her 1619 Project has been challenged as deeply flawed and she has a long record as a journalist of intolerance, controversial positions on rioting, and fostering conspiracy theories. Hannah-Jones would later help lead the effort at the Times to get rid of an editor and apologize for publishing a column from Sen. Tom Cotten as inaccurate and inflammatory.

Polls show trust in the media at an all-time low with less than 20 percent of citizens trusting television or print media. Yet, reporters and academics continue to destroy the core principles that sustain journalism and ultimately the role of a free press in our society. Notably, writers who have been repeatedly charged with false or misleading columns are some of the greatest advocates for dropping objectivity  in journalism.

Now the leaders of media companies are joining this self-destructive movement. They are not speaking of columnists or cable hosts who routinely share opinions. They are speaking of actual journalists, the people who are relied upon to report the news.

Saying that “Objectivity has got to go” is, of course, liberating. You can dispense with the necessities of neutrality and balance. You can cater to your “base” like columnists and opinion writers. Sharing the opposing view is now dismissed as “bothsidesism.” Done. No need to give credence to opposing views. It is a familiar reality for those of us in higher education, which has been increasingly intolerant of opposing or dissenting views.

Downie recounts how news leaders today

“believe that pursuing objectivity can lead to false balance or misleading “bothsidesism” in covering stories about race, the treatment of women, LGBTQ+ rights, income inequality, climate change and many other subjects. And, in today’s diversifying newsrooms, they feel it negates many of their own identities, life experiences and cultural contexts, keeping them from pursuing truth in their work.”

There was a time when all journalists shared a common “identity” as professionals who were able to separate their own bias and values from the reporting of the news.

Now, objectivity is virtually synonymous with prejudice. Kathleen Carroll, former executive editor at the Associated Press declared “It’s objective by whose standard? … That standard seems to be White, educated, and fairly wealthy.”

Outlets like NPR are quickly erasing any lines between journalists and advocates. NPR announced that reporters could participate in activities that advocate for “freedom and dignity of human beings” on social media and in real life.

Downie echoes such views and declares “What we found has convinced us that truth-seeking news media must move beyond whatever ‘objectivity’ once meant to produce more trustworthy news.”

Really? Being less objective will make the news more trustworthy? That does not seem to have worked for years but Downie and others are doubling down like bad gamblers at Vegas.

Indeed, the whole “Let’s Go Brandon” chant is as much a criticism of the media as it is President Biden.

If there is little difference between the mainstream media and alternative media, the public will continue the trend away from the former. MSM has the most to lose from this movement, but, as individual editors, it remains popular to yield to advocates in their ranks. That is what the New York Times did when it threw its own editors under the bus to satisfy the mob.

As media outlets struggle to survive, these media leaders are feverishly sawing at the tree branch upon which they sit.

253 thoughts on ““Objectivity Has Got To Go”: News Leaders Call for the End of Objective Journalism”

  1. “Advocacy journalism” is yet another Orwellian word perversion that deliberately reverse the meaning of a phrase. Weaponized language is a Marxist weapon of war, that Barack Obama honed to an art form. Censorship is renamed “advocacy journalism,” just like Obama renamed terrorism, “workplace violence.” Here is the problem, changing the name of a thing does not change the objective reality of that thing. Advocacy journalism is censorship, and workplace violence is terrorism, no matter how many times relativist ideologues deny the existence of objective reality.

  2. Incorrect. New leaders who want to throw out objectivity should THEY THEMSELVES be thrown out. We don’t need more woke Clowns pretending to be an Authority who runs amok with no oversight or accountability.


  3. So notnonly are journalists throwing out “common sense” they also want to throw out any attempt to be objective. So what is the point of calling yourself a ournalist if you are simply pedalling opinion pieces. It is not news but what used to be called gossip.

  4. At 65 I returned to college to complete my undergrad work (yes, a late bloomer). My major was creative writing. I had 2 choices: novel writing or technical writing. I asked the head of the department why creative writing didn’t include ad writing. She said that young students want to write the great American novel or work in tech, so that’s what they offer. (BTW, I still haven’t finished (or started) my great American novel.)

    I’m sure that traditional newswriting sounds boring when you’re 18, but doing a Woodward Bernstein sounds much more exciting. So, they give them what they think they want.

  5. Clearly there is a pandemic…one of cognitive dissonance, amongst the media and their minions

  6. Maybe what is needed is a concerted public effort to revoke broadcast licenses for local affiliates of the over-the-air networks. FCC has the authority to revoke licenses of individual stations for failing to serve the public interest. When a local network affiliate’s license is up for renewal they must post notification that the public may comment to FCC about the station. All over-the-air stations are subject to this process. Maybe if ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS saw many of their affiliates being scrutinized before license renewal (which has always been a pro forma exercise) they might get the message that Americans want ‘just the facts, ma’am’ from the nightly news reports.
    Then when people want opinion, they can turn to cable networks like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC which are not subject to FCC licensing.

  7. Objectivity in journalism was always something to be aimed at. Not an absolute. Just the fact that theme is a building block in good writing proves this out. So I’m glad to see the grumbling amongst paid influencers such as yourself, Jon. It makes your motives completely clear when you call for this objectivity that never really existed and exposes it as being just a distraction to the type of yellow journalism you practice at Fox.

    1. Anonymous you are correct when you state that an effort at objectivity has on many an occasion been rejected. However, it doesn’t eliminate the responsibility to the citizens of the nation by news outlets to try to remain objective. In your reasoning it must then follow that just because women are raped it’s no big deal because it happens all the time. Im sure that you have great respect for Bob Woodward. Here is what he had to say concerning the media’s lack of objectivity. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11702915/Watergate-journalist-Bob-Woodward-tears-media-ignoring-warnings-Steele-Dossier.html. When will you come to admit that everything you have posted about Trump has been based on the lies you soaked in from your friends at CNN and MSNBC. An honest person admits a mistake and tries to make amends. Concerning Anonymous I guess that says it all.

      1. Pay no attention to “anonymous” who no doubt is succeeding at pushing buttons. It’s a joke. No one could believe what he/she is writing.

  8. Asked about the implications of the committee’s report, the magazine said in a statement: “Three sources alleged in November, 2021 that a key Jan 6 rally organizer used burner phones to communicate with Team Trump. Rolling Stone reported those allegations. Since then, one of those sources has gone on the record. We’ve reviewed the reporting in the original story, and it’s solid.”

    I come across the “reporting” as a subject of an Althouse post. It is interesting both here and there, an examination of the propaganda created and pushed by media.

    Take a look at the paragraph, and try to find a fact.

    I use this as an example of fact free “reporting”

    The story is suppose to be, burner phones were used by Jan 6 protestors, directly communicating with ‘TeamTrump’. As you can see, it conveys the story….without actually providing a single fact that can be ‘fact checked’.

    1. I would further note that what is alleged is not illegal.

      So we have an activity that has been reported – but not with sufficient information to be able to verify it as a fact,
      That even if true was legal.

      BTW Who is “team Trump” ?
      Phones are used by people.
      If actual people are identified – they can be questioned.

      All in all this smells like the stupid claim that in 2016 “Team Trump” was using special Russian Burner Phones to communicate with Putin. CIA/Mueller thoroughly debunked that.

      Even providing a location and a time that one of these “burner phones” was used would likely be enough for FBI to follow this.
      They could get all records from the nearby towers and eliminate all identifiable phones that made calls in that time period,
      Leaving a list of unidentified phones to chase down.

      This with near certainty has not been done – because the story is bogus.

    2. iowan2, first they said they had three sources and then they said they had one source. That sounds rock solid to me. Rolling Stone said their reporting on Trump Russia collusion was rock solid too. I guess I missed their retraction on page 142. Don’t you understand they did it all because they are patriots to The United Socialist States of America. Not even Russia could think up a way to more efficiently hurt America than what the mainstream media has accomplished. Even Bob Woodward has come to a day of atonement. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11702915/Watergate-journalist-Bob-Woodward-tears-media-ignoring-warnings-Steele-Dossier.html. I am not expecting many of the sanctimonious in the press or on this blog to follow his lead.

  9. Fox’s Free Ride Could Be Over

    In October of 2020, the Trump campaign attempted an October surprise by releasing the ‘Hunter Biden laptop scandal’. It was essentially a Fox News story via The New York Post, another Murdoch-owned source.

    Donald Trump, however, had declared war on mainstream media 4 years earlier. So mainstream media basically said, “F U, Trump. Don’t ask us to enable your October surprise. Let Fox News handle it”.

    Hopefully this will be the new normal. For way too long mainstream media relayed Fox News stories; giving Fox News a disproportionate voice in the national conversation. And currently the new Republican House aspires to manipulate mainstream media with all the bogus investigations it has planned.
    But mainstream media may not play along.

    Therefore Professor Turley, a Fox News employee is very worried. He knows that Fox News could be neutered if mainstream media refuses to echo rightwing talking points. This is what Turley is really talking about when he refers to ‘the loss of objectivity in journalism’.

    1. Wow! If you’re any indication, our media crisis is worse than even I–a lifelong REAL JOURNALIST (from when reporting was honest) –thought it could be. So, Grasshopper, as long as only “Rightthink,” as per George Orwell’s 1984 is put forth, apparently to mean, ala CNN, NBC, CBS (aka See BS), ABC, PBC (notice this LONG LINE OF LEFTIES), all will be well? So, Grasshopper, why don’t you look up and, duh, READ A BOOK ON THE BASICS OF JOURNALISM, and that true journalists serve no partisan agenda, but try to serve the, duh, OBJECTIVE TRUTH, to mean presenting, fairly, all views and ALL shadings of whatever story! Because, Grasshopper, this is America, not Gavin Newsome’s, Biden’s or fascist Kammie Kuteness’s version of how things should be. (Note: I”ve always considered myself a Democrat but can’t by the party’s CORRUPTION today!)

      1. Kathleen, your comment reads like it was stamped by the same cookie cutter that stamps most of the comments here. It’s that ‘shocked’, over-the-top outrage with inevitable references to ‘fascist liberals’.

    2. [Donald Trump, however, had declared war on mainstream media 4 years earlier.]

      Your falsehood is an excellent example of non-objectivity.

      I assume you also neither blinked nor blushed as you typed in your lie.

    3. Anonymous – Predicting that the MSM will ignore unfavorable stories about Democrats is about as safe as predicting that Kim Kardashian will be photographed in skimpy clothing.

    4. Given that Fox News audience is more than MSNBC and CNN combined, and that new right leaning sources are fighting for viewers, I don’t think Fox cares what your MSM does.

  10. Maybe I am missing something, but when was it allowed into the building? It left with the checks to the DNC some 20 years ago.

  11. In the beginning was the word, meaning whoever controls the word controls the world. That which would have previously been termed propaganda or, more simply, lies, now gets to call itself “advocacy journalism.” Advocacy journalism is an oxymoron. The silliness would be amusing if it weren’t so terrifying.

    1. THANK YOU! As an older journalist–from when we were required to report FAIRLY AND HONESTLY–I take great comfort in seeing that someone understand that today’s media is about those NOW ALLOWED (for the first time in the nation’s history) to own and control ALL OUR MEDIA, using it to not only CONTROL THE U.S., but (since they control the media there too), to control Australia, Southeast Asia, Europe, South America, etc.

      And instead of anyone recognizing that, we get the “thinking” left, in particular, blaming all the world’s ills on Fox News, which is merely another symptom of the problem, as is CNN!

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