Exploiting "objective" bias in traditional media

I've been a journalist for several decades now and for most of that time, I've bought into that myth... but since the advent of social media, my belief in that myth has eroded into virtual non-existance. I worked very hard on maintaining objectivity in everything I did in the early years and discovered something uncomfortable. The closer any journalist approached a story with real objectivity, the less likely that journalist would have a career. The more they were able to artfully inject their opinion into a piece, the faster their career rose.

Interesting story on CNN today on how the "objective" press is manipulated by people with a particular axe to grind. The story reveals how whistleblowers, like Edward Snowden, have sought out journalists that have a reputation for dislking certain political extremes for the purpose of gaining public sympathy for their actions.  For Snowden, his use of The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald have paid off handsomely with offers of political asylum from countries like Iceland.


I'm not passing judgement on anyone here, I'm just opening the curtain on the myth of absolute objectivity in the press.  


I've been a journalist for several decades now and for most of that time, I've bought into that myth... but since the advent of social media, my belief in that myth has eroded into virtual non-existance.  I worked very hard on maintaining objectivity in everything I did in the early years and discovered something uncomfortable.  The closer any journalist approached a story with real objectivity, the less likely that journalist would have a career.  The more they were able to artfully inject their opinion into a piece, the faster their career rose.


The Guardian, for example, is the only British publication that has a web presence specifically targeted at US news and audiences.  It is also an unabashedly liberal publication politically and takes great pleasure in reporting news that is damaging to the US government... no matter who is in charge of it.  They make a lot of money doing that and that's specifically why Snowden leaked the information to them.  That left the US media scrambling to catch up and take on varying positions on the issue.  For example, Fox News has been braying about Obama's involvement in the secret surveillance and MSNBC has been just short of calling for Snowden's head.  So far, I have not seen ANY reporting that could be close to being called objective.


This is, however, nothing new.  Even the most objective journalists I know have subjective methods for determining what should or should not be covered.  One well-known journalist told me years ago that he has stopped taking calls and emails from any PR person that he doesn't already know and has worked with.  Another will only accept direct messages from Twitter (and you can't reach him unless he has connected with you.  I've also talked with journalists who say that when there are five companies that are involved in a particular technology issue, and all are saying virtually the same thing about the issue, she will only include the input from the largest company of the five, because it's better for the SEO of the publication (not to mention that the largest company is an advertiser).


Speaking of advertising bias, I've had several journalists (all very good and very respected) who have sworn up and down that advertising doesn't affect their reporting, bitch and rail whenever they come back from an interview with a company that never advertises in their publication... or any other.  Yes, those journalists, to their credit, still write up the interview, but does anyone actually believe that the coverage is not affected by their anger?


It is not just important, but absolutely necessary for a journalist to be as objective as possible in reporting news... but in today's day and time it rarely happens, nor does anyone really believe it does unless the reporting agrees with their particular position.  Then it's absolutely fair and balanced.


How do we move the needle back towards reality?  It's not the job of the journalist for the most part.  It's the job of the source of the information.  Objectivity and truth are the responsibility of everyone today.