It is no secret that newspapers have been hard pressed to remain profitable outlets throughout the 21st century and as many journalists move from print to the Internet, the field of journalism faces an identity crisis.
Objectivity, the hallmark of the most prominent print journalism outlets, is an ideal internet media appears to have left in the last century.
In its place the concept of transparency has emerged, where regardless of how opinionated a blogger or e-journalist is, the validity of their statements can be traced through a series of links; allowing the audience to gauge the accuracy of the content being consumed. Bloggers are proud of whatever point of view they convey on their websites and by making their partisan opinions readily apparent, they hide nothing from their readers, who in turn, are allowed to consume the content being produced with the knowledge of the author’s opinions.
Many contemporary print journalists believe this transition from objectivity to transparency is a violation of the basic ethics of the journalistic field.
However, the Society of Professional journalists: Code Of Ethics, makes no mention of objectivity, while there are multiple references to the importance of fairness and accuracy throughout the code. To this end, the transparent nature of blogging does not oppose SPJ’s code of ethics. In fact the transparency of online journalism, where the audience can track the accuracy of a writer’s opinions through links, easily refuting ill-founded conjectures due to the massive resources of the Internet, does a great deal to insure accuracy throughout the blogging community.
Online commentator David Weinberger believes Transparency is the new Objectivity, replacing the unbiased style of the in-print mediums, which once dominated the industry.
Despite the best intentions of the most altruistic journalists, it is absurd to pretend that an individual, regardless of how ethical, can completely suppress all of their biases or the biases of the company for which they are employed.
“Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to,” said Weinberger.
This concept of transparency prospers online due to the linkability of the Internet. An author can easily compile a multitude of links supporting his or her claims and creating an online paper-trail of facts, through which a reader can follow up on, to ensure the validity of an author’s musings.
When a journalist pretends, even unintentionally, they do not have any biases, readers can be misled if they do not question the spin of news stories professing to be objective. Here, the transparent nature of online journalism reveals its usefulness. With opinions out in the open little is left to doubt, material can be taken at face value and points made by an author can be legitimized or refuted in a matter of minutes. A process which used to take days, through letters to an editor in the a case a mistake occurred in a newspaper article, now takes only a few clicks of a mouse.
Proof that a lack of objectivity can exist simultaneously with fair and accurate reporting can be found across the Atlantic Ocean within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In the U.K. it is the norm for major print publications to offer subjective content to their audience. The Times, has offered up conservative commentary since its introduction in 1785, while The Guardian has advanced centre-left issues since it was first published in the industrial center of Manchester in 1821.
Despite the opinionated nature of both publications, they have both contributed volumes of legitimate and accurate journalism throughout their existence. The support of each paper for a certain political viewpoint has never inhibited the ability of the journalists in their employ, to produce fair content. British readers know the politics behind the paper and are able to consume information with these opinions in mind, allowing British subjects to form their own opinions bereft of an ill-found guise of objectivity.