Objectivity is frequently held to be essential to journalistic professionalism (particularly in the United States); however, there is some disagreement about what the concept consists of. In Europe and other places, advocacy journalism is considered as a legitimate sort of professional journalism.
The concept of objectivity has always been somewhat ambiguous, and both journalists and the public tend to identify objectivity in its absence. Few journalists would make a claim to total neutrality or impartiality. However, most strive toward a certain moodicum of detachment from their own personal biases in their news work. In the United States, an objective story is typically considered to be one that steers a middle path between two poles of political rhetoric. The tenets of objectivity are violated to the degree to which the story appears to favor one pole over the other.
According to some, it refers to the prevailing ideology of newsgathering and reporting that emphasizes eyewitness accounts of events, corroboration of facts with multiple soources and “balance.” It also implies an institutional role for journalists as a fourth estate, a body that exists apart from government and large interest groups.
Others hold it should mean reporting things without bias, as if one just came to
Still others hold it to mean that journalists should have something like a neutral point of view, not taking a stand on any issues on which there is some disagreement. Instead, journalists are simply to report what “both sides” of an issue tell them. Some even extend this standard to the journalist’s personal life, prohibiting them from getting involved in political activities, which necessarily requires taking a stand.
Advocacy journalists and civic journalists criticize this last understanding of objectivity, arguing that it does a disservice to the puublic because it fails to attempt to find the truth. They also argue that such objectivity is nearly impossible to apply in practice — newspapers inevitably take a point of view in deciding what stories to cover, which to feature on the front page, and what sources they quote. Another example of an objection to objectivity was the coverage that the major papers (most notably the New York Times) gave to the lynching of thousands of African Americans during the 1890s. Ne
The primary themes common to most codes of journalistic standards and ethics are the following.
• Unequivocal separation between news and opinion. In-house editorials and opinion pieces are clearly separated from news pieces. News reporters and editorial staff are distinct.
• Unequivocal separation between advertisements and news. All advertisements must be clearly identifiable as such.
• Reporter must avoid conflicts of interest — incentives to report a story with a given slant. This includes not taking bribes and not reporting on stories that affect the reporter’s personal, economic or political interests. See envelope journalism.
• Competing points of view are balanced and fairly characterized.
• Persons who are the subject of adverse news stories are allowed a reasonable opportunity to respond to the adverse information before the story is published or broadcast.
• Interference with reporting by any entity, including censorship, must be disclosed.