Me & William Blundell on journalistic ‘objectivity’

As a journalist who tries to write about things that matter, I occasionally get flack from folks who think I’m not being ‘objective’ enough. For example:

Usually what these critics mean is that my angle is insufficiently flattering to their own worldview; accusing me of violating (what they take to be) one of the basic rules of journalism is easier than articulating, in a non-circular way, why I’m wrong.

But here’s the thing: objectivity doesn’t exist. Honesty does, in the sense of avoiding straw men and voicing the strongest articulations of both (or all) sides of a controversy. And accuracy does, in the sense of a correspondence between what I describe in my stories and what actually happens in the world. But objectivity? That’s nothing more than a rhetorical stance.

Here’s the beginning of my first Letter From the Editor at the Central Circuit:

Screenshot 2015-02-18 at 12.59.15 PM

And here’s a selection from The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, by the Wall Street Journal‘s William Blundell:

Screenshot 2015-02-18 at 1.05.01 PMSo, readers: criticize me. Please. I love being engaged by people who take my work seriously enough to tell me why it’s wrong. But accusing me of inobjectivity isn’t a criticism, it’s a trivial observation to which I will respond, “Yeah. So what?” If I’m wrong, if I’ve done a bad job, then tell me why I was wrong or bad. Don’t hide behind (what you take to be) the procedural rules of journalism.

UPDATE: This post initially included an image of the following exchange as an example of a critic accusing me of inobjectivity: Screenshot 2015-02-18 at 1.10.09 PM

Jacob Galfano (the guy tweeting to me) says that I misunderstood and that he was trying to say I was too objective:

Screenshot 2015-02-18 at 4.13.06 PM

I’ve rearranged the placement of his tweet, and added his clarification, rather than deleting it because 1-I want to be transparent and 2-I feel comfortable pushing the responsibility for my ‘gross misunderstanding’ onto Galfano’s lack of clarity.

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One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Josh Kelety.

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