Al Jazeera America asks: Shouldn’t news just give the facts? The false god of utter objectivity

In a promoted tweet today, Al Jazeera America asked “Shouldn’t news just give the facts?”

The problem is with that word “just”. It implies a pure, no-additives-here neutral objectivity. Real news, untainted by bias. It reduces the news organization to “just” a fact-checker and news reader. But given limited time and resources, choices must be made: which news items will be aired? Which facts will be presented? What to leave in, what to leave out…those are editorial judgments.

Those choices are increasingly perceived to be driven in some news organizations by ratings or ideology, rather than the public interest.  In a 2010 opinion published by the Washington Post, Ted Koppel decried the death of real news, calling cable news biased and calling for a return to facts:

We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly – individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.

and,

What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts – along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor.

Actually, the op-ed piece was more about Koppel’s slightly bitter opinion that news organizations had transitioned “from a public service to a profitable commodity”, and that “company bean-counters” trimmed, cut, and eliminated Continue reading