Rethinking Objectivity in Journalism: A virtue journalism approach
Abstract Media integrity, to a large extent, rests on the postulate that the media is objective and truthful. Objectivity is a cornerstone principl...
Media integrity, to a large extent, rests on the postulate that the media is objective and truthful. Objectivity is a cornerstone principle in journalism. It holds that facts can be separated from values, opinions, and conjectures lest they undermine the veracity and truth of media reports. Consequently, journalists are expected to report news by the means of value-neutral language and competent reporting technique. Although objectivity in journalism is an ideal worth pursuing, it has an inherent conceptual fault line arising from its conceptual root in positivism. This in turn affects its practical application. Journalistic objectivity is a variant of the theory of objectivity in philosophy, particularly, in the positivist school. This paper argues that it is mistaken to assume that the positivist notion of objectivity can apply in journalism. The spheres of natural sciences and journalism are distinct in their objects of focus as well methodologies. In practice, it is impossible for journalists to bracket their personal values, opinions, sentiments, and interests. But, beyond the psychological difficulty in the pursuit of objectivity in journalism, there is also the difficulty posed by media constitutive interests. By constitutive interests I mean the economic, partisan, ethnic and ideological interests that feature in media practice. Consequently, this paper submits that, rather than focus only on action-based approach through external measures such as, the laws of the state, and Code of ethics for journalists, in order to get journalists to commit to the ideal of objectivity, a person-centred approach based on internalized moral psychology through virtue education should be explored. Hence, the paper proposes Virtue Journalism. Virtue Journalism is a pedagogical approach that draws on the principles of Virtue ethics theory to redirect focus the character/virtue formation of journalists. After all, ‘action follows being’ (i.e., one acts based on how one is). The paper is divided into two broad parts; the first part, looks at the idea of journalistic objectivity with its theoretical and practical problems. The second part expounds on the idea of Virtue Journalism.
Key Words: Journalistic Objectivity, Virtue Journalism, Virtue education, Constitutive interests.
JCMR Journal of Communication and Media Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, Special Issue 2, June 2022, pp. 92-99
© Association of Media and Communication Researchers of Nigeria (AMCRON).
About the author
*Celestine Chidozie Kezie is of the Institute of Humanities, Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.
Kezie, C. C. (2022). Rethinking objectivity in journalism: A virtue journalism approach. Journal of Communication and Media Research, 14 (1, SP. 2): 92-99.
To access full article, click on download.