CMNS455 McMaster University Representation and Manipulation Short Essay 5–6 pages (approximately 1500 words)Topic: you studied the various challenges of ma

CMNS455 McMaster University Representation and Manipulation Short Essay 5–6 pages (approximately 1500 words)Topic: you studied the various challenges of manipulation, the difference between reality and representation, including the difficulties raised by “pseudo-events,” and questions of truth and truthfulness in reporting. Compose a thorough, clear, and relatively short examination of the ways that journalists can be manipulated by external forces. Distinguish between formalized censorship and the five ways that journalists can be manipulated. In your essay, refer to at least four course readings and provide three related examples from news stories (brief summaries are fine, with sources cited). As well, analyze the nature of conflicts of interest (detailing one specific example of conflicted media coverage), consider whether the conflict of interest operates at an organizational and/or individual level, and suggest ways to avoid the warping effect of economic/political interests.Consider: 1.Whether manipulation of journalism is easy or difficult in our society 2.What are the best ways to avoid being manipulated by powerful individuals and organizations3.Whether the media sometimes pursue multiple (conflicted) agendas 4.How conflicts of interest make it easier for external groups to neutralize journalists 5.Whether limiting access is a common or uncommon strategy used by external groups to manipulate journalists 6.Whether intimidation and disinformation are common or uncommon strategies used by external groups to manipulate journalists 6
Objectivity and After:
The Twentieth Century
Make your stuff hard.
J.F.B. Livesay
The effort to state an absolute fact is simply an attempt to give you my interpretation of the facts.
Ivy Lee
Copyright © 2005. MQUP. All rights reserved.
th e b r i e f r e i g n o f o b j e c t i v i t y
The doctrine of journalism objectivity was invented in the 1920s – a North
American invention of newspapers and journalism associations – after
almost a century of anticipation in the popular press. Objectivity was never
as popular in European journalism, where opinion continued to play a
substantial role, even in news reporting. After the First World War,
“objectivity” arrived as an explicit, common term in journalism. It occurred
in numerous press codes, articles, and textbooks. One of its earliest known
uses appears in Charles G. Ross’s The Writing of News, published in 1911:
“News writing is objective to the last degree in the sense that the writer is
not allowed to ‘editorialize.’”1 Ross’s comments reflected the reporting
rules of his day when he told journalists to “keep yourself out of the story.”
The formal recognition of objectivity as a fundamental principle goes
back to the formulation of two major statements about ethics – the 1923
code of the American Society of News Editors (asne) and the 1926 code
of Sigma Delta Chi, forerunner of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Both documents enshrined objectivity as a canon of journalism and drew
the distinctions that define traditional objectivity. The asne’s code – the
first national code – stressed responsibility, freedom of the press, indepen1 Ross, The Writing of News, 20.
Ward, S. J. (2005). Invention of journalism ethics : The path to objectivity and beyond. Retrieved from
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Objectivity and After: The Twentieth Century
Copyright © 2005. MQUP. All rights reserved.
dence, truthfulness, impartiality, and decency. Anything less than an objective report was “subversive of a fundamental principle of the profession.”
Impartiality meant a “clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion.”2 Objectivity was second only to truthfulness in the code
of Sigma Delta Chi (1926). Its first two principles were: “Truth is our ultimate goal,” and “Objectivity in reporting the news is another goal, which
serves as a mark of an experienced professional. It is a standard of performance toward which we strive. We honour those who achieve it.”3
The principle of objectivity was so widespread in journalism by the
1930s that it played a role in labour disputes. Editors contended that
journalists could not be objective if they belonged to trade unions.4
Philosophically, influential journalists such as Walter Lippmann argued
that democracy needed professional journalists who provided objective
information. Objectivity reached its zenith in the 1940s and 1950s.
Brucker saluted objective reporting as one of the “outstanding achievements” of the American newspaper.5
Yet objectivity’s career was stormy. Objectivity was dominant for only a
few decades in the twentieth century, and journalists challenged the ideal
almost as soon as it was espoused. Its proponents had to defend their views
against the practitioners of other forms of journalism, such as investigative
and interpretive reporting. Critics complained that newspapers slavishly followed a superficial objectivity that repeated official statements. Press theorist Theodore Peterson, in the 1950s, wrote that objectivity was “a fetish.”6
2 Pratte, Gods within the Machine, 205–7.
3 Sigma Delta Chi, a professional journalistic fraternity, was founded in 1909
at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, by a group of students to benefit
the “noblest profession of all.” Its 1926 code, modeled on the asne’s code, would
become one of the best known. Bostrom, Talent, Truth and Energy, 177.
4 Objectivity was part of a case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1937
involving the Associated Press News Agency and the National Labor Relations Board.
The court supported a board ruling that the ap had fired a reporter for his loyalty to
the Newspaper Guild. The ap claimed that it dismissed him for biased, pro-labour
news. Morris Ernst of the Newspaper Guild told the court: “the Constitution does not
guarantee objectivity of the press, nor is objectivity obtainable in a subjective world.”
Also in 1937, the American Newspaper Publishers Association, the American Society
of Newspaper Editors, and nine other publishers’ groups opposed unionized “closed
shops” because the “uncolored presentation of the news” required that employers be
free to hire reporters from any walk of life. See Schudson, Discovering the News, 15–7.
5 Brucker, Freedom of Information.
6 Peterson, “The Social Responsibility Theory of the Press, 88.
Ward, S. J. (2005). Invention of journalism ethics : The path to objectivity and beyond. Retrieved from
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Copyright © 2005. MQUP. All rights reserved.
The Evolution of Journalism Ethics
The ideal of objectivity was hardly new. As we saw above, the concept
in general went back to ancient philosophy and to early modern discourses of fact. Objectivity had been in common use outside journalism for about a century before journalists adopted the term. Modern
science was the paradigm of objective knowledge, and much of Western culture in the nineteenth century paid homage to the objective
fact. The prestige of objectivity in journalism grew with the development of egalitarian, democratic theory. Countless public figures repeated the claim that the press’s most important social role was to
provide citizens with enough objective information to govern themselves. Nor was the idea of objective reporting radically new in journalism. The “matter of fact” report went back to the seventeenth century.
Nineteenth-century journalists claimed to provide impartial news.
So what was new about journalism objectivity? Its formulation in the
early twentieth century differed in three ways from its predecessor – the
nineteenth-century idea of factual reporting. The three differences
were matters of degree – objectivity was stricter, more methodical, and
more professional.
First, the norms of objectivity were stricter, with a clearer distinction
between news and opinion. Thus the ideal of objectivity in the early
twentieth century required a more demanding form of empirical reporting. The proponents of objectivity fashioned a stricter ideal of reporting by providing a more demanding interpretation of such existing
norms as impartiality, independence, and factuality. In this sense, they
exaggerated the meaning of existing norms, calling for greater journalistic restraint. Exaggeration and greater restraint – this was the way in
which the advocates of objectivity invented a new ethical ideal. These
tougher norms and sharper distinctions formed the conceptual core of
the ideal of traditional objectivity in journalism.
Journalism’s movement towards traditional objectivity matched a similar shift by science towards a stricter, “pure” objectivity. At the same
time as journalism was moving from an informal empiricism to a strict
positivism in reporting, empirical science was embracing a scientific positivism that sought the elimination of perspective and “metaphysical”
The reporting style of the nineteenth century, for all its talk of facts,
still contained healthy doses of “colour” and interpretation. Editors did
talk about the need for reporters to restrain their partisanship. But for
most of the century, impartiality meant reducing – not eliminating –
bias in political coverage. The same held for talk of independent journalism. In many newsrooms, independence did not imply complete
Ward, S. J. (2005). Invention of journalism ethics : The path to objectivity and beyond. Retrieved from
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Copyright © 2005. MQUP. All rights reserved.
Objectivity and After: The Twentieth Century
journalistic neutrality on all matters. Impartial factual journalism was a
loose, evolving set of general attitudes. The dual impulse to seek facts
for the business of news and to reduce journalistic dependence on political parties did not amount to the objectivity of the early twentieth
century. Empirical reporting did not involve a code of objectivity –
strictly enforced principles and newsroom rules.
The editors who enforced objectivity after 1900 banned all comment
or interpretation, raising questions about almost any adjective or verb in
a report. To “editorialize” was the reporter’s mortal sin. Editors detected
a lapse in objectivity when they read interpretive paragraphs in news stories. They were suspicious of colourful language because it hinted at the
reporter’s attitude towards an event. In addition, objectivity expanded
the nineteenth-century ideal of political non-partisanship to strict neutrality on all topics. Objectivity strengthened the demands on the reporter’s attitude. The ideal was complete detachment from events, like
Pythagoras’s philosophical spectator at the Olympic games.
Proponents of objectivity drew a hard, clear line between news and
opinion in the newspaper. This boundary replaced the more relaxed,
sometimes fuzzy line that one finds in the nineteenth-century press. For
objectivists, news did not differ from opinion by having less interpretation or comment – it had no interpretation or opinion. Advocates of objectivity argued that news was objective because it contained only
statements of facts. They saw reporting and interpreting (or the expression of opinion) as completely different. Interpretations contained
value judgments – one person’s subjective “opinion.”
The doctrine of objectivity implied that everything in the newspaper
that was not a news report lacked objectivity because it went beyond facts
into the arena of opinion, values, and interests. Non-objective journalism
included analysis, interpretation, investigative reporting, dramatic description, theoretical speculation, strong comment, and campaigning.
The doctrine of objectivity supported its news–opinion distinction, implicitly or explicitly, by appeal to a clear fact–value distinction.
Second, objectivity required a firm method for the policing of reports
for subjective elements. It favoured a detailed method for gathering news,
constructing facts into stories, and editing reports. This objective method
supported, and had support from, the economic and technological pursuit of news. The objective method and style fit perfectly the stress on
short, quick stories and the inverted pyramid. In time, it became hard to
distinguish whether a newsroom rule was based on ethical concern for objectivity, on more pragmatic concern for brevity and ease of editing, or on
Ward, S. J. (2005). Invention of journalism ethics : The path to objectivity and beyond. Retrieved from
Created from athabasca-ebooks on 2019-11-22 15:48:38.
Copyright © 2005. MQUP. All rights reserved.
The Evolution of Journalism Ethics
The objective approach developed into a more rigid and more detailed method than anything envisaged by newsroom editors in the previous century. Reporting came to follow an elaborate set of objective
procedures. There was a list of rules for checking claims, testing facts,
quoting sources, attributing comments, and balancing sources. Objectivity preached carefulness, restraint, and scepticism towards unverified
claims. In busy newsrooms, the rules became easy-to-remember clichés,
some serious, some funny. The clichés became part of newsroom folklore. If a reporter thought facts questionable, he should “when in doubt
leave it out” of the story. As for the spirit of scepticism, “If your mother
tells you she loves you, check it out.”
These rules, both general and specific, operationalized the principle of objectivity. Newsroom manuals, such as the stylebook of the Canadian Press news agency, had so many rules that reporters and
editors kept these “bibles” of the craft within reach for constant reference. The rules were evidence that a rough-and-ready empiricism was
no longer enough. Reporters had to follow the correct method and
the correct attitude.
Third, objectivity provided new and substantial support for professionalism. In the nineteenth century, journalists claimed to be professionals on other bases. For example, in England, journalists could be
“professionals” if they were respectable gentlemen or acted like gentlemen, if they were not feather-brained and provided intellectual analysis
of issues, or if they did not pander to the public’s demand for salacious
news. Even when the business of news created a rapidly growing class of
reporters, the idea that they were professionals grew slowly, often meeting scepticism from within the craft.
The justification for the claim of professionalism shifted gradually
from social status and intellectual writing to provision of objective public information. Even in 1904, Joseph Pulitzer would argue that journalists were part of the professions not because they provided objective
news, but because they dealt with ideas and issues. They “are in touch
with the public taste and mind, whose thoughts reach beyond their own
livelihood to some common interest.”7
A serious movement towards professionalization would wait until the
early twentieth century, when the idea of objectivity and professionalism
would come together. Objectivity provided crucial support for journalists and their associations who saw professionalism as an ethical response to concerns about the press. Soon after 1900, when journalists
sought evidence of their professionalism, they did not turn to the norms
7 Pulitzer, “The College of Journalism,” 658.
Ward, S. J. (2005). Invention of journalism ethics : The path to objectivity and beyond. Retrieved from
Created from athabasca-ebooks on 2019-11-22 15:48:38.
Objectivity and After: The Twentieth Century
of subjectivity that governed opinion-making – wit, satire, and persuasive rhetoric. They pointed to forms of journalism that embodied the
objective norms of fairness, balance, impartiality, and verified facts. Objectivity came to define what it meant to be an autonomous, impartial,
public communicator – that is, a professional.
An explanation of the rise of the doctrine of journalism objectivity
therefore involves these three features: the exaggeration of existing
norms, the emphasis on correct method and attitude, and the idea of
objectivity as a prime characteristic of a professional journalist. Only by
examining the journalistic and social factors that encouraged these
three features will we understand the many factors that turned journalism’s robust empiricism of the nineteenth century into the more careful, rule-bound method of objectivity in the twentieth.
The emergence of objectivity provides further evidence for a rhetorical
theory of journalism ethics. The evolution of stricter norms reflected yet
another evolution in the relationship between journalist and reader. This
shift reflected other changes in the practice of journalism and in the society that it served. This chapter examines each of the main changes: yellow
journalism and press barons; the bifurcation of objective and subjective
social realms; and new forms of reporting – muckraking, interpretive, and
explanatory. A case study follows of Canadian journalism and its transition from breathtakingly partisan journalism to professional and objective
reporting. The conclusion summarizes the emergence of traditional objectivity, and the epilogue looks at objectivity and ethical invention.
Copyright © 2005. MQUP. All rights reserved.
yellow journalism and press barons
The embrace of objectivity derived from worrisome trends within journalism. The virtues of objectivity loomed large from 1895 on because of the
notoriety of the U.S. yellow journalism of Hearst and Pulitzer. “Yellow” became a term of abuse that ignored the strengths of yellow journalism. It
covered indiscriminately just about any aggressive form of journalism or
dramatic story-telling.8 Even magazine muckraking in the early twentieth
8 Campbell, Yellow Journalism. The term “yellow journalism” went into circulation in 1897 from an editorial written by Ervin Wardman, editor of the New York
Press. Wardman used it as a dismissive epithet for the sensational journalism of
Hearst’s Journal and Pulitzer’s World. Hearst and Pulitzer were in competition for
the services of R.F. Outcault, who drew the popular yellow-coloured cartoon the
Yellow Kid, which depicted the antics of an irreverent, jug-eared child from the
tenements of New York.
Ward, S. J. (2005). Invention of journalism ethics : The path to objectivity and beyond. Retrieved from
Created from athabasca-ebooks on 2019-11-22 15:48:38.
The Evolution of Journalism Ethics
Copyright © 2005. MQUP. All rights reserved.
century, despite its admirable investigations, seemed irresponsible to
many journalists. Unfortunately, yellow journalism’s jingoism, scandal
mongering, and lack of “respectability” overshadowed its strengths. Also,
several unforgettable excesses, such as Hearst’s apparent encouragement
of an assassination attempt on President McKinley, tainted it. Conservative
editors joined church and other groups in calls for a boycott of the yellow
press. Mary Baker Eddy started the Christian Science Monitor in 1908 to
counter these trends in journalism.
Then, in the “roaring twenties,” as yellow journalism appeared to be
dead and newspapers enjoyed prosperity, an unrestrained “jazz” journalism
arrived.9 Tabloids appeared with blaring headlines, large illustrations, and
lively, brief stories that departed from the inverted pyramid.10 In the late
1920s, a tabloid war broke out in New York. The “gutter journalism” of the
Daily News, the Daily Mirror, and the Daily Graphic included photographs of
executions, “confessional” stories attributed to participants in events (but
written by reporters), and faked photographs. Sensational trials created
media frenzies, drawing over 200 reporters. Once again, there were calls
for a boycott of the tabloid press, which some critics referred to sarcastically
as the “Daily Pornographic.” Editors therefore were not naïve in calling for
objectivity. They did not think that it would be easy to instil objectivity in
newsrooms. They hoped, however, that objectivity would help to restrain
the bias, subjectivity, and yellow journalism that they perceived in the press.
Concerns about content joined worries about new ownership patterns in the American, British, and Canadian press. Newspaper
chains took commercialization to a new level. The mergers and closures of papers during and after the First World War concentrated
ownership even further. By 1919, Hearst owned 31 papers (including
Sunday papers), six magazines, two wire services, and several film
9 In 1926, Editor and Publisher congratulated the industry on “the greatest
era in its history,” with larger papers “lavish in service.” Aggregate daily circulation in the United States reached 40 million in 1930, and the value of advertising
that year exceeded $860 million.
10 The pharmaceutical industry coined the term “tabloid” in the 1880s for
compressed, easy-to-digest medicine. English publisher Alfred Harmsworth introduced the tabloid newspaper in 1901 with his Daily Mirror. A tabloid was not
just small – lots of early papers were small. A tabloid …
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