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November 17, 1988 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-11-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PERSPECTIVES
The Michigan Daily Thursday, November 17, 1988 Page 5

In

pursuit of

objective

journalism

T 4

k

"You give up practice of your per-
sonal politics if you are going to be{
a reporter."
- NBC correspondent
James Polk
BY DAVID SCHWARTZ
I work for the Michigan Daily. I
am a reporter and a journalist. But
'what exactly does that mean?
As a reporter, I gain the right to
meet influential people, see my by-.
line at the top of a big story, and
,know that I am helping to provide
lour readership with the latest news.
When I write a story for the Daily, it
is my goal to give the readers a fair,
objective account of whatever issue
I'm covering. Lately, however, many
students on campus have challenged
this notion of objective journalism.
Objectivity, they say, is no longer
applicable. Since no one can be per-
Tectly objective on any issue, news-
1papers should drop their guise of
providing an unbiased product and let

reporters write from their own points
of view.
I agree with their premise - ev-
eryone has an ingrained bias and no
reporter can be perfectly objective.
But I have always thought that
objectivity is a goal, not a given. By
striving to be as objective as possi-
ble, reporters can best inform their
readers about all sides of an issue.
Opinions should be left up to readers
and editorial writers.
With such a mind-set, I headed to
Chicago last weekend for the semi-
annual conference of Investigative
Reporters and Editors, hoping to
learn from world-renowned reporters
what journalism really is. What they
told me reaffirmed my original
thoughts.
I asked Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist Seymour Hersh, formerly a
New York Times reporter, whether
journalists should be making the
news by their actions, specifically as
protesters._His response was an em-

phatic "Absolutely not!"
During his speech, Hersh said it is
not a journalist's job to lead social
change, but to report on the people
who are pushing for social change.
As it turns out, every reporter and
Pulitzer Prize-winner I talked with
echoed Hersh. Philadelphia Inquirer
reporter Ric Tulsky - who spoke to
an audience of several hundred people
about ethics in journalism - said,
"While we're still citizens and still
have the right to vote, we should not
have bumper stickers or participate in
rallies or participate in X,Y, or Z."
Hearing so many prominent jour-
nalists voice such a consistent ideal
has served to strengthen my beliefs
about what journalism is. There are
two simple principles by which all

journalists must abide:
-People should choose between
making the news or writing about
the news. Ethically, both activities
are incompatible. If journalists must
tone down their public practices to
insure the credibility of their paper,
then such a step should be taken.
-Reporters should not cover events
with which they have been involved,
in any capacity. Any reporter who
participates in an event should not
later write a news story about it.
Opponents of this explanation of
journalism have argued that forcing a
reporter to curtail political involve-
ment will eliminate many minorities
from becoming journalists, because
so many are active in news-making
pursuits. And besides, opponents

say, everyone should be in favor of
furthering civil rights efforts, so why
shouldn't a civil rights leader be al-
lowed to write a story about racism?
The problem with this argument
is that not all people agree with mi-
nority leaders. For example, many
students were upset that the United
Coalition Against Racism formed
picket lines to prohibit students from
entering buildings on Martin Luther
King's birthday last January. Letting
a UCAR member cover that story
would have been like letting former
University President Robben Flem-
ing cover the code.
To insure fair coverage, a
newspaper must prohibit certain
people from joining its staff. Making

such ties with political leaders can
only hurt the paper's credibility with
its readers. The minute a newspap4r
allows its reporters to publicly e -
press their opinions or to participate
in news-making activity, any credi-
bility the paper hopes to garner gogs
out the window. Readers cannot aqd
should not be expected to separate
actions of newspaper reporters from
the stories they and their co-reporters
write.
Because of this, it is important for
an aspiring journalist to mako a
simple choice - either make 'ile
news, or write about it. Either chore
is respectable, and I don't think-one
is better than the other. However,'it
is impossible to effectively do both.

The School of Music Opera Theatre presents

A'
'
,t
.]-
t
fr
l'
n .!

Directed by Jay Lesenger
With the University Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Gustav Meier
November 17, 18, 19 at 8 PM
November 20 at 2 PM
at the Power Center part of the 1988-89 Power Series
Tickets are $10 and $7; student seating $5 with ID, at
The League Ticket Office in the Michigan League.
y To charge by phone: 764-0450
First time by the School of Music Opera Theatre: Suor Angelica sung in Italian
with surtitles projecting an English translation.
Gianni Schicchi sung in English
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