On the other hand, objectivity is killing journalism.
Daniel Froomkin, who blogged until earlier this year for the Washington Post and now is at Huffington Post, lays into to the bankrupt notion of "objective journalism" in an Economist interview:
Journalists should strive for accuracy, and fairness. Objectivity is impossible, and is too often confused with balance. And the problem with balance is that we are not living in a balanced time. For instance, is it patently obvious that at this point in our history, the leading luminaries on one side of the American political spectrum are considerably less tethered to reality than those on the other side. Madly trying to split the difference, as so many of my mainstream-media colleagues feel impelled to do, does a disservice to the concept of the truth.
Charles Krauthammer, for instance, is mad as a hatter. (An irony of sorts, since the McGill grad is a trained psychiatrist.) It's therefore imperative, in assembling a talking-heads panel, to include among those who are "tethered to reality" at least one individual who isn't. Which would be George Will (the Soviet Union will last forever), Michael Gerson (Bush's longtime head speechwriter), Krauthammer or any of the other neo-con status-quo upholders occupying perches at the "liberal" Washington Post. Froomkin managed to get fired from WaPo, after years of being one of the paper's most-read columnists - actually, among any U.S. paper's most-read columnists - which makes me worry about the job security of the paltry WaPo offering of moderates (the first-class E.J. Dionne, for instance).
But more to the point, on objectivity. Everything journalists do, and ever have done, is subjective. Do you run the Fort Hood tragedy above or below the fold? Do you even put it on the front page? Is it a "massacre" (a term we use too easily) or a "killing spree" (arguably sensationalist). Do we report the miserable U.S. jobs figures that came out the same day as good or bad news? (The jobless rate rose into double digits, but Obama and economists have been predicting that all year. The rate of job loss in this latest period is comfortingly lower than in previous months - meaning the trend is in the right direction.)
What stories we decide to cover, whom we choose to interview, the length and placement of stories in a paper or broadcast line-up, whether stories are accompanied by photographs or video reports from the scene, these all are subjective judgments that skew the story.
As to "getting both sides of the story," sometimes there's only one side. Pedophilia is bad. So that's a rare instance where we don't chase after some university prof who will defend it. But in reporting on French healthcare - if we decide to do so in the first place, a subjective judgment - though our reporting shows the French experience accord with France's ranking by most world health organizations as the best in the world (the U.S. ranks around 37th in most), we must find "experts" to provide the other side. Namely, that it's costly. Well yes, you get what you pay for. On torture, we must find someone to argue for it to accompany the chorus of the correctly appalled. These addled voices speaking for a malignant "other side of the story" greatly dilute the truth of matters.
Sometimes things are just right, or wrong, and we should say only that. And say it over and over again until the powers that be make a good thing the new normal and eradicate a bad thing from our midst. In the MSM, there is still some question about the wisdom about going to war in Iraq, an unqualified disaster that ranks among the worst foreign policy initiatives in U.S. history, Southeast Asia included. There's no honest argument to be had on this, only sophistry. A Republican House tried to block the banks bailout late last year, which would have tumbled us into a global depression. G.O.P. members of Congress were acting either out of partisanship, at the expense of sound policy and the public good, or were ignorant of basic economics. Again, there's no "other side" to this.
Some things are true - gravity, water finding its lowest level, Michael Jackson was weird. In reporting and commenting on crucial public-policy questions, we only muddle things by ensuring that cranks also are heard from. Our on-the-one-hand-on-the-other "objectivity" also coincides with the decline in audience for both print and TV network news. Fairness of course we strive for. Doing no harm, also. But objectivity not only is often bad journalism but lousy for business.