Research Seminar - Contesting the Ethics of Journalism Objectivity: beyond the liberal deontology in news production

Jairo Lugo-Ocando will be presenting for approximately half an hour, which will be followed by an informal discussion. All are welcome and there is no need to book.

One of the most enduring influences of modern journalism in society has been to help establish the language of ‘common sense’ as the hallmark for political discussion in the public sphere. In so doing, mainstream journalism has played a key role in setting the parameters for political debate among the public in a way in which the public examination of society by individuals is considered only legitimate when is driven by ‘factual’ examination rather than by opinion or ideological analysis. For journalists of the past two centuries this last slant has translated into the motto “comment is free, but facts are sacred” enunciated by CP Scott (1846-1932) editor of the Guardian. This ‘common sense’ (Gramsci, 2003 [1935]) approach towards reporting the outside world has simplified political debate in the news media to intuitive narratives that allows for superficial explanations of society’s wrongs while displacing the blame for them to ‘the other’. Journalists who work in the mainstream news media then enable and reinforce such type of discursive regime by using ‘objectivity’ as a core normative value that assigns presumably ‘scientific rationality’ to their work. In so doing, journalism as a post-colonial hegemonic institution in modern society has not only be able to claim ‘truthfulness’ historically but also have helped to set and protect the parameters of political engagement by linking them to the values of the Enlightenment as a political project while underpinning over time the discourses of power of the ruling elites (Harkins & Lugo-Ocando, 2016, 2017). Thanks partially to this, the mainstream paradigm of journalism – predominantly present in the US and the UK –was then able to push other forms of journalistic practices to the margins while presenting ‘structural analysis’ as too ‘ideological’ to be taken seriously and therefore restricting it to the margins of the public debate. All this in detriment of both journalism and society as a whole.