Questioning Objectivity

In readying myself for yesterday’s trip to Eagle Publishing, the producer of the right-wing Politically Incorrect Guide book series and Human Events Magazine, I prepared for a fight. Not a fight with the speakers, but rather a fight with myself to keep my mouth shut.

I was prepared to be angry and steaming. You see, I tend to be a die-hard dirty lib who can’t keep silent. I actually prayed to God (publicly, on Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook) that I would be able to keep to myself.

Eagle Publishing Sign

To my surprise, the visit to Eagle left me with only a marginal amount of irritation, which was directed less at Eagle’s political affiliations than it was at the company’s use of the word “objective.” I felt no anger, and no steam came out of my ears.

This surprise reminded me that I’m a much more open-minded and forgiving person in practice than I am in theory. In other words, I always think that I can’t stand chatting politics with people who have opinions which differ from mine, but then I remember that my best friend is a Republican, and we talk politics all the time. I’m glad that I am much more gracious in the real world than I am in my brain.

Like I said earlier, my only qualm developed with Eagle’s–and specifically Human Events’–use of the word “objective” to describe the company’s work. On the Human Events website, the magazine is described as both conservative and objective in the same sentence. To me, this doesn’t jive.

Merriam-Webster defines “objective” as, “expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.” To me, this means that in order to be objective, a reporter must leave behind any political, religious, and otherwise ideological perceptions and report simply what is. To me, this means not only fairly and accurately reporting individual stories, but also being fair and accurate in the stories one chooses to cover.

To be objective, one can’t only publish pro-conservative news, because the world isn’t always pro-conservative. Similarly, to be objective, one can’t only publish pro-liberal news, because the world isn’t always pro-liberal. 

This is where my frustration with Eagle and Human Events comes in: If Human Event’s writers report from a decidedly conservative focus, and if (as seems to be the case) they report only pro-conservative news, how can they claim objectivity in the way in which they cover their world? When they hand-pick stories in which they can report both accurately and conservatively, they have to be leaving behind stories that don’t show the right-wing in a positive light. In this picking and choosing, they leave behind their commitment to objectivity.

Personally, I don’t believe any reporter can be truly objective. Human nature makes it almost impossible to leave behind beliefs that we as individuals hold dear. And I think that’s OK. But, in realizing that reporting from our individual perspectives might be our best bet, we shouldn’t be lying to our readers by telling them that we are being objective. This isn’t fair to the legacy of journalism, isn’t fair to our publications, and definitely isn’t fair to our audiences.

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