“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.

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

  1. We already have advocacy journalism – it’s called opinion pieces, op -eds, and always should be labeled as such whether in the press, journals, visual media ( all the tv cable “news” shows on after 7 pm) .

  2. “WE of the resistance, in order to continue being the resistance, demand that no one put up any resistance, so we may continue to be irresistible!” When absurd people, become powerful, reason is no longer an acceptable way of thinking, the hive mind is the only acceptable thinking. Are they following the George Orwell playbook, or did he actually predict this “Future” we are living in. Whom exactly decided these left thinking “Leaders are leaders?”. If they can stifle opposing viewpoints, it will save them from having to burn books.

  3. “What we found has convinced us that truth-seeking news media must move beyond whatever ‘objectivity’ once meant to produce more trustworthy news.” ‘…no matter how many more lose trust in us’. There’s clearly a shortage of self-awareness in this profession.

  4. 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.” They’re describing themselves and can’t see it. HILARIOUS!

    1. To deflect and distract from their own advocacy and prejudice, they resort to making that claim against objectivity. Disinformation in their minds is any information that impugns their opinion or reporting. It’s interesting that so many consider their new role of reporting news to be advocating for or against the subject of their report. Wondering how they will react when the tide turns and the public refuses to support their source of their livelihood through advertising that ultimately supports media groups. I think the desire to advocate stems from mental and even physical laziness on the part of the journalist-advocate-activist as it removes the need to actually do hard work to investigate, challenge and potentially dispute spoon-fed news releases and news conferences coming from the government agencies and corporations. We will see a return to objectivity when they realize they have abandoned freedom of the press in return for a lazy conformity that will rise to severely restrict journalism.

      1. W.R.
        Prior to 2016, NPR was on in our household from as soon as I got up with Morning Edition, till Kai Ryssdal signed off in the evening.
        Then 2016 election happened and they went all in with CNN-like panel-O-pundits. The level of mental gymnastics to link anything and everything “bad” to Trump was truly Gold Medal worthy.
        And they still think themselves as real “journalists,” while promoting, or as you put it, “To deflect and distract from their own advocacy and prejudice . . . ”
        I do not think it is mental or physical laziness on their part but they see it more important to push their agenda and narrative then actually report on the news.

        1. @upstate

          Same here, though I cut it off in 2012, around Obama’s second term. Modern NPR is neither news nor informative. Shoot, it isn’t even entertaining.

  5. “Saying that ‘Objectivity has got to go’ is, of course, liberating. You can dispense with the necessities of neutrality and balance”

    … not to mention dispensing with — what’s the word? — oh, yeah — KNOWLEDGE.

    The “irrelevance” of objectivity might be the argument presented by some, however I suspect that the real impetus involves insufficient scientific or technical knowledge of “journalists” in an increasingly technological world. “Writers” with little to no knowledge of engineering, biology, economics, physics, statistics, etc. can’t actually contribute anything “objective” to the discourse, so they HAVE to evolve a belief that objectivity is irrelevant.

    I mean, seriously — what else are they gonna do?

    If all one has are ignorant opinions, one MUST of necessity evolve a value system that prizes ignorant opinion above all else. As I’ve said many times before — sarcastically, but not entirely sarcastically — “journalists” are people who first flunked math class, then general science, then history, etc., and finally English, and like their close cousins — lawyers — had no place left to seek refuge but in either law school or journalism school. In an increasingly-technological, fact-based society, these people are the dregs of the professional world, and they have little choice but to alter their fields to fit their own limitations. It’s not a coincidence that both professions seek refuge in a world of OPINIONS and not FACTS.

    1. Hey now, I’m an erstwhile ink-stained wretch who became a bottom-feeding lawyer and didn’t fail any of those classes. IMO, the push to do away with objectivity is based on élitism, not journalists’ lack of intelligence or knowledge. Newsrooms nowadays are cocoons for boarding school and Ivy League or Ivy-adjacent university grads who socialize only with others of their class. At school and in their social bubbles, they tell each other how special they are, and how their destiny is to shape opinion and wield power. They have a messianic zeal to guide the “others,” who surely must look up to these superior people, into the light of progressivism — by propaganda if necessary. The result? The “others,” not nearly as dumb and sheeplike as their “betters” think, have fled mainstream media outlets by the millions, dropping ratings and circulation below survival rates in many cases, endangering the very platforms the élites use in their ceaseless efforts to transform the country.

      1. I sense that we might be saying the same thing using different words or coming from slightly different directions and converging on the same idea(s).

        1. Ralph: I think that litigation lawyers, (in a forum/court expressly designed for adversarial conflict and resolution), owe the duty, -and are ethically bound-, to advocate for one side–their clients, -i.e., to put the client’s best foot forward. The other side will have its own counsel to bring up the flaws of the original side. If lawyers are exposed as misrepresenting fact or intentionally deleting or withholding information, they are disciplined or disbarred.
          In advocacy journalism, it is “buyer beware” as to media consumers. Worse yet, case law has eked out, -and journalists have learned over the years-, that omission of facts contrary to their side of the story/presentation carries little or no consequence, as long as what they DID say/include was true.
          Thus, both professions can sometimes employ the same tactic- of selective facts and selective information- to advocate for their side of the story. One profession is (rightly) punished; the other might engage in “corrections” or rescissions that appear weeks, months later, -on the bottom of page 23.
          The only recourse (excepting defamation) is MORE speech (as Turley often points out) exposing the deletions/omissions/misrepresentations. That is why “alternative media” must rise in viewership/readership to compete with –AND BECOME– the new MSM/legacy media.
          That’s the only comparison I see.

      2. I think it’s a perverse kind of intellectual narcissism. If most people agreed with the “elite,” it wouldn’t prove they’re smarter than most people. Absurd sophistry is now a status symbol.

    2. I noticed decades ago that reporters (remember those now near-extinct dinosaurs?) were no longer reporting on what the precise provisions of proposed legislation were – only the bombast from supporters and detractors. I got rather tart about that, wondering why they couldn’t just report the provisions, and we could figure out for ourselves whether we liked or disliked the proposal. At present, I set that down to a combination of factors, including the growing over-coziness of DC-based reporters with their favorite politicians, and the laziness which precluded them from doing their own work.

      Now, they won’t even call themselves reporters – they’re much better than that! They are JOURNALISTS!!! They have no longer a sacred charge to present factual data to readers for their own analyses and conclusions – they now believe facts – the most crucial single word in your excellent comment – are the enemy of some sort of twisted “truth,” which it is their sacred charge to defend against factual data.

      As in, it doesn’t matter whether Kyle Rittenhouse was a frightened 17-year-old defending his life – or whether they reported untruthfully that he shot three black men. What matters was that he shot BLMantifa supporters. Not that they threatened his life, not that they pointed loaded guns at him when he was on the ground and not presenting an aimed weapon. He was the concentrate of evil – he HAD to have been. And still they believe.

      As in, it doesn’t matter that an old Injun lied his derriere off to the press – they liked the story waaaay to much to check it. Nicholas Sandmann, in reality nervously attempting to handle a very strange situation, with threats against him and his other teenage cohort present, and a man beating a drum into their faces, was also evil concentrated.

      Interesting that these new “journalists” – self-styled so – always plead for “the children,” but real children they villify. They can only cope, mentally, with aggregates, not individuals.

      As President Trump would have said, “sad.”

      1. As I think I recently mentioned, over the years I’ve noted your several references to the Red Queen’s statement, “Sentence first-verdict afterward.” In this instance it seems applicable yet again, perhaps clarified with the nouns augmented to “Conclusion first-analysis afterward,” as many fact-free “journalists” clearly work bacward from an incident to construct an alleged cause that fits the desired conclusion instead of allowing the facts to assemble as they will so as to lead to whatever conclusion fits the facts.

        1. Lewis Carroll’s Alice books look more and more like a blueprint for today’s cowardly, lazy, lying New World, as exemplified by the vast majority of today’s “newswriters” as well as all establishment and almost all leftist politicians.

          Yes, your noun-switching is apt.

          We have the lunatics running not only the asylum, but society in general, and it’s not alone a U.S. problem.

          1. At least part of the problem, I’m convinced, is that “journalists” work for publications, and publications have agendas that don’t necessarily include establishing the facts or enlightening the public — just as lawyers work for clients, and clients have agendas that don’t necessarily include establishing the facts or enlightening the jury — and it’s only coincidental when the agendas of publications and lawyer’s clients have anything in common with what Twain called the unvarnished Truth.

            And then you find yourself through the looking glass when the “journalist” is a lawyer, and the publication is essentially the lawyers’ client, with the public being the sleepy Judge or Jury. That’s when a sane, rational, wide-awake person begins to feel like Filby from HG Wells’ The Time Machine:

            ‘It’s against reason,’ said Filby.
            ‘What reason?’ said the Time Traveller.
            ‘You can show black is white by argument,’ said Filby, ‘but you will never convince me.’

  6. No one seems to be stating what indeed was the standard of journalism I grew up with in the ’60s at The AP: Put your personal biases aside, find out what’s going on, tell as much factual truth as you can uncover; as to 100% objectivity, forget it; no one ever gets there. The virtue in that type of journalism was that it strove to achieve an objective view, all the while realizing that there is no such thing as complete objectivity. The value is in making the effort to be objective. We might be able to program AI to be closer to purely objective than a human being could ever achieve. That could be an
    interesting experiment.

  7. “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.” (Glasser)

    To borrow a vivid line from a late, great journalist, who worshipped objectivity, speaking to his reporters:

    You can sleep with the elephant, but you can’t cover the parade.

    Glasser and his ilk sleep with the entire menagerie — then wonder why we don’t trust them.

  8. Well, if we follow the lib-left logic, their claims about “misinformation” go out the window. Advocacy is based on opinion, and opinions are not necessarily based on facts. There can be no “misinformation” if we’re just spouting opinions. Maybe that’s why, back in the stone age of journalism, opinions were on one page, and news was on another. Clearly marked.

  9. The problem in journalism isn’t “advocacy” — the problem is lying. Advocacy is when you acknowledge a fact and, right or wrong, you advocate for it. Lying is when you make up a “fact” or you know something is untrue but you repeat it anyway. Russiagate is still the iconic example: even now, after two investigations that debunked the hoax, lib-left journalists and politicians are maintaining that Trump colluded with Russia. That’s not “advocacy,” it’s lying. For the lib-left, unfortunately, advocacy is just a virtue-signaling way to lie.

  10. If the American people don’t dispose of this ruling class at the ballot box, there will be civil conflict in this country. Today, folks are moving to other states just to escape the parasite class. That’s a pretty big and expensive step, but people are doing it because it matters that much to them. Imagine how many will feel when these nihilists own the federal government and there’s nowhere to retreat to. That can only mean trouble.

    1. Diogenes, that is an excellent observation. One of the strong points of our government is its federalist system. I am afraid the left wishes to destroy it and create an oligarchy run by the elitists of the day.

    2. @Diogenes

      My wife and I are among them. Post COVID our blue city is unlivable, and we have finally had enough after our annual expenses jumped $10,000/year all on their own in only a year (most recently $200/mo increase in homeowner’s insurance due to crime). We are putting our house on the market in the spring and moving to redder pastures. Neither of us are progressives, so we do not come bearing baggage.

      1. James, my brother lives in Nashville and complains about the Californians moving in, but my guess is that those poor Californians are genuine refugees from the Creep State. Why else would they move that distance to red territory? At least they’re fortifying Tennessee against the commie apocalypse. I believe the same thing is happening in Texas. I’d explain that to my brother, but he’s a Democrat 🙁

        It’s strange the commie apocalypse infects mostly AZ, CO, and GA. I wish somebody could explain that to me.

        1. James and Diogenes: Red Rover Red Rover, let James/Wife come over!
          Diogenes, let’s hope that you are right about why some Californians are moving to Tennessee. To me (I hope I am wrong), it is more that “red states” are the remaining domains to be conquered.
          Irrespective and consequently, the good part is that in these CURRENT “red states” one is more likely to listen to multiple, competing views without being overwhelmed by only one dismissive, controlling, “enlightened” side. Try moving a Tennessean to California or New Jersey. Not so much.
          That James has experienced living in both will make him so much more valuable as a voting constituent and perhaps future political figure.

            1. Naw, I like you and your comments too much. I’d rather we all move to Tennessee and do our best to encourage an informed populace. (Truth be told, I have been looking for secondary or tertiary “cabin” property in TN for the last five years or so. What used to be $200-300K is now going for $800K-$1M+, no joke.)

  11. It’s absolutely stunning that “journalists” are outwardly lobbying to become the instruments of propaganda. Apparently they have no self awareness. It would seem the 80% of the population already perceives them as that. Now they are looking for a formal title.

  12. The problem of biased media has been around for a long time. The media started going the biased route during Vietnam and has been shedding its costume of objectivity ever since. There is a major divide in this country and the media makes it worse. They sit there in their ivory towers of New York, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco and blather on and they build this construct of the staid, well educated, white man controlling everything. They really have little contact or context of the rest of the country or the people in it and what they do. The MSM seldom mixes with the unwashed masses except during elections and then it mainly involves trashing the rest of the people that they have never met and never understood. Their sense of direction and understanding is so far from the reality of the rest of the country that it would be laughable if it was not so harmful. Of course it permeates the government because it’s all the same people. You have a closed clique of Major Tech (with fabulous wealth), government (with power undreamed of in the past) and Media (which is the speech organ of the Major Tech and Government). Power and wealth+Power and wealth+ the salesman justifying it all. MSM is losing it’s grip and the other two legs of the 3 legged stool may cast them off, then what happens? It may self correct but the tendency in times like this is for a populist hero (so called) to seize power.
    Everybody on this comment column knows that Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity are not journalists except Svelaz and he holds on to the illusion like a snapping turtle myth.

  13. It is less a question of objectivity than of fairness. In a courtroom, the defendant is entitled to present a defense to counter the prosecutor’s accusations, but in the world of social justice, there is only one side and anyone who questions it will be shouted down. For those who advocate social justice, the accusation is the judgment.
    American journalists formulated a code of ethics in 1910, then struggled to follow it. Few succeeded completely, but most did their best to be fair rather than biased, objective rather than subjective, and open-minded rather than close-minded. So while journalists were never completely “objective,” they did not confuse an editorial with a report of an event, and, with rare exceptions, they did not view themselves as advocates for a political party or group or ideology. Most also worked their way up in the newsroom, where they learned their craft and the values implicit in practicing it.
    Journalists (or academics or politicians or others) who insist that “objectivity” be sacrificed to achieve “social justice” are actually arguing that they should be allowed to impose their views on everybody else, including those who disagree with them. Like self-righteous politicians and business leaders they believe that they are on the “right side of history” and have both the right and the duty to assure that history stays on the course they have set.
    But history has no right side, and it is not objectivity that prevents them from assuring that it acquires one; it is fairness and tolerance and a society which sets individual freedoms and rights above rigid ideologies and the dictates of ideologues, whether right, left, or center.

  14. The attacks from the left on objectivity and freedom of speech are merely exposing the fact that behind all of their cries for social justice is a mob of thugs willing to do anything to get their way. They are like angry children who want all the toys. Reasoning with them is a waste of time, as they have declared that reasoning and logic must go.

  15. What are they going to say when “their” points of view are eliminated?…as surely they will be…

    1. They already can’t tolerate being held to their own standards. Just image when their ‘justice’ is used against them.

  16. “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.”
    Boy, did these journalists miss the boat. Been gone and that’s why no one beleives a word they pen or say. Clowns are always the last to know. Credibility once lost is nigh impossible to regain. Ask any jury.

    Amazing how civilization-killing these fools are. But then again we are living in the last days of ancient Rome, aren’t we?

  17. This is great “news” for humanity! These stupid smart people are so arrogant, they believe what Bezmenov caled “Active Measures” will work out in the open.

    So at a time when claims of misinformation and disinformation are being used as justification for a public/private partnership to infringe rights, the private side comes out to admit they are not an objective source for truth.

    It’s like pedophiles coming out of the shadows to proudly claim they are just minor-attracted people.

    No more “blue checks” on their Twitter profile. They should all proudly identify with the color yellow.

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