The future of objectivity

Andrew Calcutt & Philip Hammond (University of East London & London South Bank University, UK):

This paper addresses questions at the heart of journalism: is it true, and how do we know? When humanity has seen itself as the subject of history, it has also seen the world of its own making as an object of study – hence objectivity. Conversely, the recent rejection of objectivity is the correlate of the ‘end of history’, or, the suspension of the idea of humanity as its subject. These are the social origins of the notion of objectivity and of its discontents. From the New Journalism of the 1960s to the ‘journalism of attachment’ of the 1990s, journalism itself has internalised the criticism of objectivity as no more than a strategic ritual. In the 1960s it was important to formulate a critique of the formulaic objectivity which then dominated journalism, but the academic critique of journalistic objectivity has now become, at best, redundant. Rather than prompting critical thought, today revelations of media bias are more likely to reinforce popular cynicism about the media and public life. We propose that journalism itself can play a significant role in the reconstruction of objectivity – not in the naive pretence that reporting is real, which would in any case be cynical; but in the recognition of reporting as the deliberate reconstruction of events (necessarily an abstraction from them), which is then the object of scrutiny and deliberation on the part of readers and writers who can now respond to each other in new ways supported by new media technologies. Thus objectivity is reinstated as a social process, and this reinstatement may also contribute to the reinstatement of humanity as the subject of social reality.

Timing - Saturday - Panel Session G1
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