By Avra Bossov
Objectivity: the idea that we must present both sides of every story, and as journalists, we must keep our own views out of the story. As a common thread in journalistic practice, objectivity ensures that we present information fairly and leave it up to our readers to decide what to think.
The more classes I take in SMPA, the more I am urged to call this into question. In learning the ropes of reporting in Intro to News Writing & Reporting, we learned the importance of consulting multiple sources. In evaluating Journalism Theory & Practice last year, my professor framed objectivity as a pursuit rather than an absolutely achievable notion. In Research Methods, my professor has cited how statistics and other numerical verifications give way for objectivity as a journey instead of a destination.Objectivity represents a larger conversation that extends so much farther than our SMPA classrooms, as indicated in The Kalb Report's "Democracy in Action: A Review of the 2012 Presidential Debates" feature on January 28. Featuring Jim Lehrer, Martha Raddatz and Bob Schieffer, the program addressed the many elements of this past election season from the eyes of some of the industry's most valued journalists.
As presidential and vice presidential debate moderators, these journalists reflected on their experiences relating to their preparation for the debates, their vision for debates of the future, and their views on the role debates play in the political process and democracy.
On the question of their roles as moderators, each had different views. Lehrer believed his role was primarily to be a debate moderator while employing journalistic skills. His view was to let the candidates correct each other, rather than his intervening.
"You’re not electing a moderator—you’re electing a president," said Schieffer.
Raddatz echoed these sentiments, although her approach differed in how she made sure the candidates answered her questions. In being more hands-on than other moderators, she interjected and followed through to get apt responses from the candidates.
"You’re trying to be really fair," said Raddatz. "There's not always an absolute truth to those things [with nuanced questions and answers]."
To see how these moderators discussed objectivity as debate moderators followed what I have learned in my two years thus far in SMPA: while we must strive to be as objective as possible, it remains a process. As we collect and disperse information, it is our ultimate aspiration to present as many perspectives as possible in our stories. And in political communication: to strategically address these perspectives.