The Media’s Obsession With ‘Super Objectivity’ Must Stop

Posted by Aadil Raza in Media
December 2, 2016

Objectivity in journalism is an illusion. A journalist, newspaper or a news channel must do away with the idea of being super objective. They must possess an unbiased and a fair subjective opinion on every important event that could make or take the lives of people of this country in particular and the entire world in general.

One can question how someone could remain unbiased while possessing a subjective idea. Yes, it is possible. Being subjective is never bad, whenever you express it in larger national interests and of course in compliance with the goals of our democratic polity and constitution. Here, larger national interests too have various meanings. An idea initiated by liberals, claims that, this is the idea that will take this country forward and would cater to the needs of common people. On the other hand, conservatives too float their own ideas claiming that their idea is the best and suitable for the common good.

The problems begin when two different ideas confront each other. And here’s where the job of the journalists begin. Media interprets the two different ideas and put the right one before the common people by making these ideas understandable to them while doing justice to the people and cherishing the fundamentals of our constitutional mandates.

While I am writing this, few of my fellow journalists, friends and other intellectuals may disagree with my points and can definitely remind me of the lifelong lessons that have been imparted to us to remain neutral at all times. Regardless of the above arguments, we must dare to stand by the pair of ‘people and truth’, if we care about the significance of subjective elements and the perspectives. One can preserve his/her objectivity while having a perspective at the same time. I believe as a citizen of this country that being subjective in a legitimate sense and doing away with ‘super objectivity’ is very important especially in a country like ours where millions of citizens are still not literate.

The growing tendencies among journalists and media houses to achieve ‘super objectivity’ often lead to a disastrous situation that ultimately sets aside the centre point of public concerns.

For example, the objective elements based on the Prime Minister’s app opinion poll on demonetisation, suggest us that everything is good. It creates an impression that the people of this country have supported this move overwhelmingly but the perspectives and insights compel us to tell everyone a completely different story. Almost all the news channels and newspapers started singing in the same tune what is being already orchestrated by the government since the scheme has been adopted.

Questioning the survey’s sample size seemed like a huge no-no. Hiding the facts and numbers regarding smartphone users among our vast population shows the pro-objective nature of journalism with more inclination towards the government’s take. Now tell me, how justified is to vindicate oneself with this tiny sample size of 1 million in a country of over one billion?

Here is another example of ‘super objectivity’. On November 18, 2016, an interview of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went viral on social media. In fact, it was a Facebook live of BBC Hindi. In that interview, Kejriwal was making allegations about the Centre, the PM and other corporate top guns. Somewhere in the middle of the interview, Kejriwal lost his cool and started questioning the credibility of BBC. The reporter got offended and of course certain other media houses that stand tall claiming solace for the poor got hurt as well. Reports were published in a tone of accusation against the CM for losing his temper. But what had actually happened?

The CM had merely put the same facts and figures of deaths due to inconvenience caused by the demonetisation scheme that were being circulated in newspapers and news channels. He was referring to news reports regarding the deaths caused by the move. The reporter, without wasting any time, asked the guest inquisitively, how he could “directly link” those deaths with demonetisation?

When reports of deaths are coming from all over the country explicitly mentioning the circumstances pointing to demonetisation as a possible reason, asking for proof is a little much. Interestingly, when the question of credibility was brought up, the debate diverted into a different direction intentionally. I am very vocal with the issue of questioning a politician or a public servant. Freedom of press gives you the right to ask. Go and do it every time with full honesty, no problem. But ridiculing the facts and figures of a pathetic situation especially death is neither fair nor ethical in any sense. It actually ruins your objectivity too.

Why was the reporter representing the idea of being super objective on a specific question regarding the number of deaths? Death is death.

The principle of human ethics is above all professional ethics. Investigating the cause of death and questioning the exact number can truly make a reporter super objective but this does not accomplish the purpose of journalism and the press. The press must take a stand on certain things that affect the people of this country. Alignment with the government is actually de-alignment with the people. Press is all about putting people first, not the government and this spirit is possible only when a portion of subjectivity exists. Sometimes, super objectivity takes away the soul of truth. It is subjectivity that fuels fresh blood into this mechanism for keeping truth always alive through criticism and questions.