Maintenance of Neutrality and Objectivity in News
Objectivity, balance, absence of bias and generalizations, and neutrality are the most significant features and characteristics of news. Maintenance of neutrality and objectivity in news are often classified as the main principle of information coverage that give the chance to the audience to make their own mind about a certain event, decide what to believe, and choose information that seems to be reliable from their own perspective. The current paper aims to shed light on how the impression of neutrality and objectivity is usually maintained in news. To achieve this, the paper will provide evidence that news can and should represent information in a neutral, impartial, and objective manner. Moreover, much attention will be paid to the concepts of neutrality and objectivity, several convincing reasons that justify the importance of these qualities, and, finally, examples of how neutrality and objectivity should be maintained in news.
Despite the fact that the terms “neutrality” and “objectivity” are often used interchangeably, there are substantial differences between these two concepts. The term “neutrality” is often associated with impartiality and is defined as a state of not supporting or assisting someone in cases of conflicts or disagreements (Andersen & Gray, 2008). Generally speaking, neutrality may be compared to the impartial voice that should be maintained in news in order not to obtrude upon the audience (Andersen & Gray, 2008). Thus, news can be neutral in case news reports are portrayed in an impartial and unbiased manner that does not dictate how information should be understood, evaluated, and responded to.
On the other hand, objectivity is the vehicle of neutrality that makes news unbiased and uncolored. According to the estimations of the researchers who explore objectivity in news, the birth of objectivity dates back to the 1920s (Cohen-Almagor, 2008). The term “objectivity” was initially coined to combat the problems of journalism and democracy. Although objectivity has acquired absolutely different meaning in the 21st century, objective approach to news delivery in 1920s was created to cope with new information as well as new conditions (Cohen-Almagor, 2008). Nowadays, objectivity is commonly defined as the quality of being true and free from biases, generalizations, individual interpretations, and personal feelings (Wien, 2006). Objectivity in news consists of several interdependent dimensions, including accuracy of information, truthfulness, balance, fairness, and, finally, moral neutrality (Maras, 2013). According to the estimations of Cohen-Almagor (2008), the notion of objectivity in news is related to different aspects, especially arrangement of news, framing, and influence on the public (Cohen-Almagor, 2008). Thus, objectivity, similarly to neutrality, is possible and, at the same time, is necessary because news should not focus on simple collection of terms, but should weigh and assess the evidence.
Maintenance of neutrality and objectivity are critically important to all forms of journalism, especially news reports. In case neutrality and objectivity of news are violated, news reports become commentaries that are full of biases, discriminatory viewpoints, and subjective opinions. News reports are neutral and objective in case they satisfy the basic standards and norms in journalism, including empirical standards, norms of coherence and impartiality, and standards of rational debate (Maras, 2013). Moreover, objectivity and neutrality of news require truthful and accurate delivery of information. Truthfulness involves the use of accurate and relevant data that may be justified by official documents and other credible sources of information (Forde, 2012). Relevance means that news reports not only include the most important information, but also address the most relevant issues (Cohen-Almagor, 2008).
Adoption and maintenance of neutrality and objectivity in news are vital for delivery of information to the public. First, neutrality and objectivity in news not only present the key relevant ideas, but separate facts from subjective personal judgments and opinions (Barker, 2006). Second, neutrality and objectivity prevent the audience from irrelevant and subjective interpretations of what is going on (Barker, 2006). Third, objectivity and neutrality in news strengthen the sense of autonomy and independence of the audience. Fourth, these two interdependent qualities promote accuracy as well as absence of preferred viewpoints and obvious favoritism (Forde, 2012).
Despite the claims of the researchers who stress that neutrality and objectivity in news are not important, many journalists provide effective strategies to maintain objectivity and neutrality in news. To begin with, in order to avoid biases, prejudices, subjective statements, and distortions of actual events, journalists should avoid unnecessary commentary of information (Hoglung & Oberg, 2011). In addition, it is crucially important to stay as close to original sources and true events as possible. Neutral language as well as adequate assessment of information are other effective strategies that contribute to neutrality and objectivity of news (Hoglung & Oberg, 2011).
Therefore, in order to contribute to truth-telling in media coverage, journalists should focus on two types of evaluations. First, the primary responsibility of reporters is to evaluate judgments for accuracy, transparency, and credibility. Second, reporters should assess whether their own reports are free of prejudices and deceiving facts as all sources of information are generally classified as credible and not credible (Schudson, 2013). In order to portray news neutrally and objectively, journalists need not to avoid violation of their duties and provide people with accurate and truthful news. Finally, with the purpose to prevent news from doubt and ambiguity, journalists should be aware of the fact that personal judgments, commentaries, and dishonesty spoil neutrality and objectivity of news (Haak, Parks & Castells, 2012).
Thus, having reviewed the notions of neutrality and objectivity in news reports and provided convincing evidence on why and how objectivity and neutrality should be adopted and maintained, it is possible to come to conclusions that news can be neutral and objective. In general, objectivity and neutrality are highly valued for their practical benefits, especially for accurate and impartial representation of events, absence of subjective and biased viewpoints, and, finally, focus on true account of events that are justified by official and credible sources. Neutrality and objectivity in news are achievable when news reports are free from biases, stereotypes, discriminatory viewpoints, personal evaluations, opinions, and commentaries.
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