Neutral or Not Really
There is nothing more refreshing that being able to read an objectively written article. No longer having to wonder whether the information is correct or not, being allowed to form your own opinion on the matter, based only on facts, and not having your ideas poisoned by anyone else’s interpretations. Pure mediatic bliss! But things are no longer that simple and this is a utopic thought. For starters, people have grown less accustomed to making up their own opinions on various matters and have become dependent on interpretations. This encourages authors to keep writing this way and to stray even further away from the objective article we would love to review from time to time.
What Makes an Article Truly Objective?
The type of article
As mentioned before, some articles require a different type of approach. Some are bare fact renderings, while others need the author to give explanations and put things into perspective. On an objectivity scale, informative articles are the most objective, while editorials are the least objective as they specifically present the view of the journalist.
On a scale rated from most to least objective we have: informative articles, instruction articles, reports, analyses, tabloid articles, and editorials. In most cases, the intervention of the author is not necessarily bad, as long as it is marked as personal opinions and not introduced in the overall information. Most people do not know what to do with some type of information and will need someone to give them some ideas on how to analyze things. This is where a well delimited opinion is more than welcome, without compromising the overall objectivity of the article.
The type of author
Never has a profession laid more emphasis on ethics and trust as it does for journalists. Having the possibility to deliver the truth or to alter it before getting it to the public is a very big deal. And while there are other ways of checking whether the information presented in an article is true or not, it takes more resources to undo something like this. The main resource we have as a society to prevent such situations before they take place is the morals of the author and his own motivation.
All authors will work to make a name for themselves. Some want the fame, others want the impeccable career, others are only in it for the money. One thing is for sure: their work speaks for itself and you can tell the quality of a professional by looking at what he has done in the past. But wouldn’t a review started with a preconception be less valuable? Although this is a plausible question, we need to mention that an author’s word is as good as any other resource you have at your disposal to assess his work. Renowned professionals would never do something to jeopardize their careers. Start with that thought.
The tone of the article
The type of the article and its tone go hand in hand. However, there may be nuances some authors resort to in order to make it less obvious that what they are presenting is their own opinion or an unverified fact. Using specific words, so that if ever confronted, they could say the text is at best ambiguous, avoiding clear statements or giving the impression of making a statement, and emphasizing certain aspects in an attempt to persuade. These are all tools used by some authors to bend the rules a bit and make an article more compelling, and, at times, less neutral.
Each type of article can have a different type of tone. It varies from persuasive to relaxed, funny to stern. This approach contributes in getting a point across over to the reader because it makes the communication much more personal. The author picks a tone and writes the article as if it is an imaginary conversation with a mute, yet present audience. This is step 1. In step 2, the audience receives the message from the author and reads it in the tone imprinted on it. This helps make the message more personal and more up to date, no matter when it is read. The more an author is personally involved, the more the article becomes credible. This is both the danger as well as the beauty of journalism and being a professional with a voice to be heard.
People who attend journalism and communication schools know more about it than people who learn about journalism from the movies. This is one major point that makes the difference between professionals and the people who simply jumped aboard this train because it was on its way to fame and success.
Therefore, while all movies teach us that no self-respecting journalist will ever divulge a source, especially in a high-profile case involving influential and dangerous people, this has led to unprofessional authors including anything in their articles. In fact, getting a tip does not mean having something to write about. It only means a direction where to look to discover real, palpable information. Anonymity of sources is meant to be a way to protect people who cannot come forward, and not a means for fabricating news. So, when a professional gets a tip, the source will not be mentioned, but the information will have to be thoroughly checked out. Not only that, but a few other sources have to confirm the information before it ever gets on the pages of a newspaper, and this is what responsible and professional journalism is.
In the context of objectivity, fact presentation needs to be confirmed, or it risks ending up in the article only because the author subjectively finds that the information is relevant.
Writing an objective article is much more difficult than it seems. For one, it is difficult not to get invested in something you are doing and not to root for one outcome over another. Then there are the people an author meets during an investigation, who can also influence the author’s views on the whole thing. Then presenting the information and trying not to write anything differently is another challenge. These are all things you need to keep in mind when you review an article and you are looking for objectivity.