Objectivity and Fairness

 

The reporter's job is to find out the truth and tell it, regardless of who might be made uncomfortable. The reporter's responsibility, as implied by the First Amendment, is to serve only the reader.

The public needs unbiased information in order for democracy to succeed. That means that your stories must be unbiased. Most reporters believe pure objectivity is impossible. When you select one word over another, your judgments enter the story.

But fairness is possible, and fairness should be every reporter's goal. Fairness requires the reporter to recognize his or her own biases in the story, and then consciously include all relevant points of view -- even ones that the reporter doesn't like, personally.

Always look for the "other side" in any story. If someone or some institution is accused of something by a source in your story, you have an absolute obligation to contact the accused party and give them the opportunity to respond. This should be done in the first story, not in some later "response" story.

Use neutral language. Avoid exclamation points. Don't say "our company" when referring to the Fourth Estate. Say Fourth Estate. Our tone should be one of the disinterested, but honest observer.

A reporter's credibility is the only guarantee the reader has of the story's accuracy. There are no policemen in the newsroom forcing reporters to be accurate. The First Amendment wouldn't allow that. If we write inaccurate or biased stories, the readers will stop trusting us. And if that happens, we all might as well go into some other field.