Monday, November 19, 2012

NEVIS Review No 4, Section II; Ref# 4.2

NEVIS Review No 4
 Section  II
 Ref# 4.2

Is objectivity an oxymoron in contemporary journalistic reporting and analysis?: A reflection to shed light on the issue
by Danny Arku


“The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together”
Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto (1848)

One may wonder how in the world, Marx and Engles, the archenemies of the bourgeoisie, could write that favorable remark about the bourgeoisie in their highly political pamphlet.

An emerging dogmatism and “intentional bias”

What I called an "intentional bias" above is a kind of bias, sui generis, that people consciously and deliberately choose at the outset which part to selectively report, which not to present in their analysis in order to be get attention, or out of some factors (for example hate or love) irrelevant to the essence of the analysis.

There is an emerging mantra of some Ethiopian journalists which can be distilled to the following conclusion: A journalist or an analyst would better focus ONLY on the negative or ONLY on the positive side-depending on his disposition to oppose or to favor the incumbent government- in his/her analysis of an issue in question, for example, the government, or the legacy of the late PM, Meles Zenawi. Those who are inclined to oppose the government vehemently argue that there are enough channels for propagating the positive side of the government (or the positive legacy of the late PM) and that one’ d better neglect the positive side, and write only on the negative.
Now, it is true that the positive side has been-and has, in the foreseeable future, enough opportunity to be -repeatedly presented ad nauseam in the government-controlled mainstream media. Notwithstanding this fact, when one critically evaluates some one or an issue in question, I strongly believe that he doesn't have to intentionally neglect the positive side or negative side, but he/she has to be as honest as possible and as factual as possible.

If a given private media intentionally neglects the positive side and presents only the negative side, then how is it different then from the government which intentionally presents the positive side only, and neglects the negative. For me, both are biased. I don't see a difference.

In a similar way, one may ask:" Ought an advocate for a cause necessarily loose his/her objectivity and impartiality in his analysis and reporting"? Astounding no! Should an environmentalist, for example, emphatically deny the positive contribution of the current march for economic development of nations in order to bring to our attention the need to emphasize environmental degradation? Can’t he/she do that with out denying the undeniable benefits of the so-called economic development?
I argue that objectivity and fairness is and ought to be the principle for any one, whether he is a journalist, an analyst, an intellectual, a reformer or revolutionary. Even the famous brilliant revolutionaries admit the supreme value of telling the truth, being balanced in one's analysis, being fact-based, being honest to one self and to followers, respecting one's audience and oneself while analyzing and reporting an issue.. We have seen in the introduction how Marx didn’t deny the facts to make a point. Similarly, Jean-Paul Sartre learned it the hard way towards the end of his life on the need to tell the story truly as they unfold.
Hence, I conclude that one may still effectively advocate a cause, or would better present an analysis while being still fair and balanced in his/her criticism, supporting them with facts and figures when applicable, and by presenting different sides of the story-both positive and negative. He/she can do this with out the need to be blinded to the facts or with out being imprisoned to his/her point of view and conviction only.