Throughout all the speculations created by Republican Candidate Donald Trump, it has been almost impossible for journalists to exercise the concept of objectivity within their own profession. When it comes to covering the 2016 Presidential Elections, there have been no other ways for journalists to define the situation than a fine line between normal and abnormal; that being, Sen. Hillary Clinton on the normal side while Donald Trump remaining on the abnormal.
For journalists, it is very important to maintain objectivity when covering a story. It has been that way since the early 1920’s during the time of Walter Lippmann, the famous journalist who originally established the concept. Objectivity calls for journalists to provide the reader with a transparent approach to evidence, letting each develop his or her own perspective of the situation. Most importantly, objectivity became established in order to prevent personal or cultural bias from undermining a journalist’s accuracy of work as well as subjectivity to develop within.
But throughout the presidential elections, Mr. Trump’s remarks and speculations have caused a shock within the journalistic system. Heck, Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign has caused an upset to the balance, forcing journalists to override the textbooks American journalism has been using for the past half-century. Indeed, many journalists have had to revisit the rules of objectivity and fairness in order to proceed with their coverage. Trump’s proposed policies and temperament have implemented strong doubts and worries among many journalists and commentators; viewing those policies as something potentially dangerous and impossible to proceed with. According to Jim Rutenberg, a reporter for The New York Times:
“If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.”
In order to reestablish objectivity within journalism, how is the media supposed to cover such an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate? Does the concept still apply? Instead, what other alternatives should take place?
For every concept ever established, there will always be an exception(s). Within objectivity, the exception is Donald Trump and his presidential candidacy. So for this case, the concept does not apply. Instead, journalists have no choice but to leave neutrality aside. In fact, it is necessary in order for journalists to fulfill their primary social responsibility- reflecting reality as it is. According to award-winning journalist Jorge Ramos, there are six topics where journalists cannot be neutral and must choose a side: racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships, and human rights violations. Maintaining neutrality within both viewpoints of these particular topics does not lead anywhere close to the truth. Mr. Trump’s biased racist remarks against Latinos and Muslims, including insults towards women, are perfect examples.
Of course, there will always be oppositional criticism against the media. The republican candidate, along with his supporters, are rebutting with accusations of liberal bias looking to take Mr. Trump out. According to Trump supporters, the media has failed to recognize the seriousness of Donald Trump’s candidacy. What seriousness? Even, more and more republicans are deserting Mr. Trump due to his extremist ideas and violation of human rights. If your own supporters are withdrawing, doesn’t that tell you something?
If journalists fail to choose sides and question those in power, how will the United States ever overcome social injustice? Journalism is considered to be a public service to the people. Let’s not forget American journalism was originally established during the Revolutionary War, due to the injustice caused by the British, in order to properly inform the people of each colony. The freedom of speech and freedom of the press is “what makes America great,” certainly not demagogic slanders. Therefore, it is a journalist’s duty to be true to the readers and viewers, meaning staying true to the facts and taking a stand against abusive authority figures when necessary. Otherwise, failure to doing so, social injustice would have gained its victory steps.
Dean, Walter. “The Lost Meaning of ‘objectivity'” American Press Institute RSS. Materiell, n.d.Web. 31 Aug. 2016. <https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/bias-objectivity/lost-meaning-objectivity/>.
Ramos, Jorge. “Jorge Ramos: Judgment Day Is Coming For Those Who Stay Silent.” Time. Wordpress.com, 23 Aug. 2016. Web. 26 Aug. 2016. <http://time.com/4463366/jorge-ramos-donald-trump/?xid=tcoshare>.
Ramos, Jorge. “The Dangers of Remaining Neutral.” Fusion. WordPress.com, 7 June 2016. Web. 26 Aug. 2016. <http://fusion.net/story/310974/jorge-ramos-the-dangers-ofremainingneutral/utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign= socialshare&utm_content=theme_top_mobile>.
Rutenberg, Jim. “Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism.” Editorial. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 7 Aug. 2016. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.<http://nyti.ms/2aZlb2P>.