Objective Journalism? Never Touch the Stuff

The National Association of Black Journalists meets for their annual convention.   This year it is being held in Orlando, Florida and in the wake of the George Zimmerman acquittal, Florida is not the happiest place on earth for many activists.   In fact, many are calling for a boycott of the Sunshine and Negro Hunting State.  Outgoing NABJ President Greg Lee told The Huffington Post the convention will go on as scheduled because canceling it would bankrupt the group.

“If we were to do something such as boycott, it would basically bankrupt our organization and it really defeats the purpose and takes away a powerful voice,” said Lee. “We had to look at the long-term view. Our organization is very vital to our nation, to our community in making sure that our stories are being told. … If there was no National Association of Black Journalists, you wouldn’t have had the Trayvon Martin story out there.”

That’s a stretch.   NABJ doesn’t publish any newspapers or magazines or produce any television or radio programs.   The Black press and the blogs like this one were way out in front of the Trayvon Martin story before the mainstream media woke up to it.   I’ve been a member of NABJ off and on (current status: off) since 1992 and not once have I ever thought of  NABJ as “very vital to our nation.”   If you’re not a journalist the odds are pretty good you’ve never even heard of the NABJ, let alone consider them “vital” to America.


That piece of b.s. by Lee aside, I agree with the decision not to cancel the convention.

Florida is not the most popular place in America based upon the Zimmerman jury essentially saying young Black males can be hunted down and killed with impunity and no fear of legal sanction. That’s a sobering message many in the Black community are not feeling and they won’t be feeling much love for NABJ for going to Florida.

But cancelling out would send the organization into a financial tailspin it might never pull out of. The contracts that sent NABJ to Orlando were signed years, not weeks or months ago.  NABJ will take heat for going to Orlando, but that criticism will fade while a decision to scrub the convention would have immediately devastating effects.

That doesn’t mean NABJ is exempt from the burning issues of the day even though some members think it should be as this guy did on the organization’s Facebook page:  I think it’s weird that as a journalism organization, some are wanting us to show a bias of this nature in the first place. It’s like we forgot what we do because the outcome of a trial wasn’t what we personally wanted…

What I think is weird is anybody working in this business who thinks the public doesn’t already thinks journalists are biased.  They should because we are biased.   I’m just honest enough to admit I am and I’m fine with being so.

I try to be fair, balanced, accurate and tell the story as straight-forward as I can when I am wearing my journalism hat.

But I’m not objective. I’ve never tried to pretend I was. It’s fine with me if you think you are, but whomever it is that’s writing your checks probably isn’t.

One of my greatest influences in journalism was Hunter S. Thompson. Reading Thompson was like going from bubble-gum pop music to Miles Davis. You learned there was more to journalism than AP style and the inverted pyramid of telling a story. You could also words as scalpels or bludgeons as the need arose.

I think some Black journalists are scared of being seen as Black and only want to considered journalists.   That is neutering yourself in search of validation from someone else.  Swear you don’t put your Blackness  before Journalism!  Swear it!!  Journalism is thy God and thou shalt have no other gods before Journalism.

This was Thompson take on being an objective journalist from his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

“Objective journalism is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

“So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here–not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

Agreed and seconded.  Objective Journalism belongs in the same place as Oz, Narnia and Atlantis. It’s a mythical place where many seek and few find. Think of yourself as “objective” if you want. It doesn’t mean your editor or publisher shares your philosophy.

It is drilled in the heads of journalists that we must be balanced about all things as if the news were a pie that can be cut in perfectly equal sections.  Every story isn’t balanced and the other side of the argument is often stupid, crazy or flat-out wrong, but you must present it so you can say at least you were “objective.”

I’m calling bullshit on that.  Thompson placed a greater value on honesty than objectivity and it’s worked for me as it worked for him.

You should be fair.  You should strive to be accurate.  You must always be honest.  If you can be objective, that’s nice, but it runs counter to everything I know about human beings and I doubt you really are.

2 thoughts on “Objective Journalism? Never Touch the Stuff

  1. I agree. You still have to be accurate in your facts, but if the facts go a cartain way, that’s how it is. “Objectivity” is just a lazy way of trying to find a middle ground so as not to offend anybody, but it doesn’t work out like that.


  2. THE NAACP ‘s Convention is in Florida (side bar their worthless leader has yet to meet with the TM family) more importantly the NABJ does not have balls to boycott Florida the majority of its membership have never spoke truth to power , the majority work for the ruling class..Of course this issue is nothing to lose sleep over..


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