With the recent row in the media over the Gaza appeal and whether or not to show it. BBC is once again showing the problems when journalism has to be impartial. It is a difficult situation to be in but I must say that I agree with International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander when he said that:
“I think the British public … can distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict.”
It is true that the Middle-East is probably the most difficult area in politics to cover because there is no ultimate Truth. Hence, we see the true limitations of “impartial journalism”. Reuters is in the same dilemma but they don’t have to write good long features or investigative journalism, therefore it is easier for them to stay impartial. However, if one wants to write good journalism, one also have to be subjective and biased. One of my favourite journalist of all times is Hunter S. Thompson (I strongly recommend Gonzo the new film that came out recently to any journalist student). One of the most famous quotes from him is about Nixon:
“Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.” – Hunter S. Thompson
I could not say it better myself. Nevertheless, I must stress that when I do believe that journalism should be subjective I also think that the journalist should always makes his view points clear to the public. One of the great journalist in the Middle-East, Robert Fisk from the Independent writes some of the most biased journalism but also some of the best.
Every journalist is a product of his environment (though every journalist wants the environment to be a product of him or her), so because of the cultural background and past, the journalist can never stay 100% impartial. But if the journalist makes it clear, then the reader can take out the “bias” and enjoy good journalism.
The future of journalism will be more biased, especially when it comes to some few specific issues like European politics, the Middle-East and the “clash of civilizations”. The reason for this change in journalism is because of the massive control of the media. Britain now got more PR workers than journalists and Israel showed us how journalist will have to work in the future (away from the action). This control will hit back because no journalist will never accept censorship or limits to do his work and then the journalist will turn against the politicians and PR workers.
To end with another Hunter S. Thompson quote:
“So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here — not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” – Hunter S. Thompson