Mac201 Objectivity, Ideology, Impartiality 2009 10 Sem1

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Mac201 Objectivity, Ideology, Impartiality 2009 10 Sem1

  1. 1. Objectivity, Ideology, Impartiality MAC201 robert.jewitt @sunderland.ac.uk
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Intro </li></ul><ul><li>Origins of objectivity </li></ul><ul><li>Objectivity in practise </li></ul><ul><li>Impartiality </li></ul>
  3. 3. Intro <ul><li>The Press and Public Debate </li></ul><ul><li>the “forth estate” - separate from: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the church, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the judiciary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the commons (see Allan, 2004: 47) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ democratic” role? </li></ul><ul><li>“ w atchdog” role? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Criticisms… <ul><li>“ The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” </li></ul><ul><li>(Marx, 1845) </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Fears over the “ bottom line ” = impact on judgements about newsworthiness </li></ul><ul><li>Allan (2004: 52) points to the increasing marginalisation of voices in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The labour movement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trade unions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feminists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anti-racists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Environmentalists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anti-poverty activists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Groups committed to progressive social change </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The clamour for objectivity <ul><li>Post-WW1: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Popular disillusionment, not only with propaganda campaigns, but also with the recent advent of “press agents” and “publicity experts”, had helped to create a wariness of “official” channels of information. For those journalists alert to the danger of equating reality with official definitions of truth , the need for more ‘scientific’ methods to process facts was increasingly being recognised’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Allan, 2004: 22) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Truth? <ul><li>Whose ‘truth’? </li></ul><ul><li>Truths based on facts? </li></ul><ul><li>Facts require full contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Facts must be accurate </li></ul><ul><li>Does the news have time and space to explore all issues ‘truthfully’? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Historical limination of bias: <ul><li>Specialise in topics, using ‘impersonal’ language </li></ul><ul><li>Public figures receive aggressive questions </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis placed on ‘investigative’ journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Prominence given to quotations for sources </li></ul><ul><li>Move away from truth towards objectivity </li></ul>
  9. 9. Objective method or “hard” news <ul><li>What? </li></ul><ul><li>Who? </li></ul><ul><li>When? </li></ul><ul><li>Where? </li></ul><ul><li>How? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>And, if possible: </li></ul></ul><ul><li>6. Why? </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For more see Manoff and Shudson, 1986: 2-10; Sigal, 1973: 66-9. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Just the facts, please <ul><li>Objectivity = verifiable facts (not interpretation) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The selection of news is as much a political act as commenting upon it’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Leapman, 1992: 254) </li></ul><ul><li>Triangulation from 2 independent sources (pref. a public authority) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Working practises <ul><li>Professional routine: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>information from news agencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(Reuters or Associated Press) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>not unusual to ‘feed voraciously off each other’s stories’ (Bell, 1991: 57) or to report uncritically from or paraphrase publicity releases </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Routinising the unexpected (see Allan, 2004: p64) <ul><li>Pressure to remain profitable & cost-effective hinders lengthy investigative journalism </li></ul><ul><li>24 hour production cycle forces tight deadlines upon journalists = routinised working practises </li></ul><ul><li>Work to set rules of practise, proven to get results in an attempt to explain the unpredictable </li></ul><ul><li>New technologies enhance the speed of reporting, as well as flexibility </li></ul>
  13. 13. Hierarchies <ul><li>Journalists rely on a commonsensical understanding that society is bureaucratically structured, and thus defer to those hierachies </li></ul><ul><li>Certain procedures exist for locating information </li></ul>
  14. 14. ‘ Primary definers’ <ul><li>‘ This means constantly turning to accredited representatives of major social institutions – M.P.s for political topics, employers and trade union leaders for industrial matters, and so on…’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Hall et al , 1978: 58) </li></ul>
  15. 15. ‘ Primary definers’ <ul><li>‘ This means constantly turning to accredited representatives of major social institutions – M.P.s for political topics, employers and trade union leaders for industrial matters, and so on. Such institutional representatives are “accredited” because of their institutional power and position , but also because of their “representative” status : either they represent “the people” (M.P.s, Ministers, etc.) or organised interest groups’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Hall et al , 1978: 58) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Repacking source material <ul><li>Bell’s (1991) study of journalists in New Zealand </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A tendency for pre-packaged news items to be favourable over much more newsworthy stories…. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Repacking source material <ul><li>Regularly rely on reproducing or repacking source material: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interviews (face to face, phone, email, etc) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public addresses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Press conferences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reports, letters, minutes, surveys, etc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Press releases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>News agency copy </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. The influence of the news agencies <ul><li>From Flat Earth News : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct rewrites of PA article: 30% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Largely reproduced from agencies: 19% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contained elements: 21% </li></ul></ul><ul><li>News sourced from press agencies: 70% </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(this excludes PR material which would push figure even higher) </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Useful article <ul><li>On WebCT Vista/SunSpace: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Justin Lewis, Andrew Williams and Bob F r anklin, 2008, ‘Four Rumours and an Explanation: A political economic account of journalists’ changing newsgathering and reporting practices’ in Journalism Practice , Vol 2, No 1, pp 25-45. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Nick Davies research draws on this work) </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Flat Earth News? <ul><li>PA has such credibility that media outlets treat it as a reliable source which does not need to be checked. The BBC’s internal guidelines … specifically instruct their journalists that they must have at least two sources for every story – unless it is running on PA … A special notice issued by the BBC journalism board on 1 December 2004 told the staff: ‘ The Press Association can be treated as a confirmed, single source’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Davies, 2008: p74-5 </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. The rise of “impartiality”? <ul><li>Defined as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a “sound practice [that] makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion. News reports should be free of opinion or bias of any kind” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1923 in Allan, 2004: 22) </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>We need to take account of implicit or explicit cultural or ideological bias </li></ul>
  23. 23. “ Impartiality” has become… <ul><li>The doctrine of “ not taking sides ” in the reporting of public affairs </li></ul><ul><li>Realisation of the impossibility of absolute “objectivity”, seeking “balance” instead </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>BUT… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>in the context of unexpected breaking news, how do you achieve balance? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>developments are unknowable? </li></ul></ul>? ? ? ? ? ?
  25. 25. “ Due impartiality” <ul><li>“ To ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality ” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/codes/bcode/undue/ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>BBC have extra guidelines </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/other/century21.shtml </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Conclusion <ul><li>Objectivity can never be satisfied due to the structural limitations of strict deadlines for news and the consequences of routinising the unexpected. </li></ul><ul><li>News aims for impartiality which is problematic given that news selection and positioning means subjective value decisions still have to be made </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘truth’ of news is that it is ideological </li></ul>
  27. 27. Points to consider : <ul><li>Objectivity? (is it possible?) </li></ul><ul><li>Impartiality (Is it necessary?) </li></ul><ul><li>What are the techniques by which the news makes itself credible? </li></ul>
  28. 28. Sources <ul><li>S. Allan, 2004, News Culture 2 nd Edition, Berkshire: Open University Press </li></ul><ul><li>A. Bell, 1991, The Language of the New Media , Oxford: Blackwell. </li></ul><ul><li>N. Davies, 2008, Flat Earth News , London: Chatto & Windus </li></ul><ul><li>Stuart Hall, ‘ The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media ’ in Paul Marris and Sue Thornham (eds.) 1997, Media Studies: A Reader , Dundee: Edinburgh University Press </li></ul><ul><li>S. Hall, C. Critcher, Jefferson, Clarke, Roberts, 1978, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, Law and Order , </li></ul><ul><li>D. Hallin, 1986, The Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam , Oxford: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Justin Lewis, Andrew Williams and Bob Franklin, 2008, ‘Four Rumours and an Explanation: A political economic account of journalists’ changing newsgathering and reporting practices’ in Journalism Practice , Vol 2, No 1, pp 25-45. </li></ul><ul><li>M. Leapman, 1992, Treacherous Estate , London: Hodder & Stoughton. </li></ul><ul><li>R. K. Manoff and M. Shudson (eds.), 1986, Reading the News , New York: Pantheon. </li></ul><ul><li>J. Palmer, 1998, ‘News production: news values’ in A. Briggs and P. Cobley, The Media: An Introduction , Harlow: Longman. </li></ul><ul><li>R. McChesney, 2001, ‘Global Media, Neoliberalism, and Imperialism’ at http://www.monthlyreview.org/301rwm.htm </li></ul><ul><li>P. Schlesinger, 1987, Putting Reality Together 2 nd edition, London: Methuen. </li></ul><ul><li>L. V. Sigal, 1973, Reporters and Officials , Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath. </li></ul><ul><li>M. Shudson, 1991, ‘The sociology of news production revisited’ in J. Curran and M. Gurevitch (eds.), Mass Media and Society , Arnold: London. </li></ul><ul><li>G. Tuchman, 1978, Making News , New York: Free Press. </li></ul>
  29. 29. See also: <ul><li>Race and ideology in news </li></ul><ul><li>Stuart Hall, ‘ The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media ’ in Paul Marris and Sue Thornham (eds.) 1997, Media Studies: A Reader , Dundee: Edinburgh University Press </li></ul><ul><li>Corporate media ownership </li></ul><ul><li>Robert McChesney, 2001, ‘Global Media, Neoliberalism, and Imperialism’ at http://www.monthlyreview.org/301rwm.htm </li></ul>

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