The Myth of Objective News

News Studio

After reading this story from, highlighting the fact that overall gun violence is at its lowest level since the 1960’s yet most people believe that gun violence is up, one is tempted to simply write this off to uninformed Americans having no idea what is really going on in the world. There are many hilarious “man-on-the-street” videos illustrating the alleged phenomenon that what really defines the national identity is ignorance. However, this particular story raises some questions that go beyond popular stereotypes. Specifically, how objective and realistic could news reporting be if so many people are apparently so misled?

I would present to the reader that the idea of objective news reporting is, in fact, a myth. It cannot happen, and to assume that no bias or subjectivity is ever involved in the reporting process is simple-minded and harmful. Now, there would have to be some sort of agenda promoting news reporting that led the public to believe that gun violence has increased. It is now obvious that this agenda placed a higher premium on sensationalizing one’s typical evening than showing the actual truth of the situation.

It is important not to write this off as those darn liberals being all too happy to merely provide another outlet for Democrats. Psychologically, it is impossible to be fully objective when deciding what is important and what is not. Think about it, as a reporter, you are responsible for writing a story. You are responsible  for choosing which details and which remarks from which interviews are used to tell your readers what happened.

What determines which details and remarks are included in each piece requires cognitive thought on the part of the writer. If all possible angles and life stories of all those involved, the point of the story would be  way too long, and the focus would be lost. However, doing so would provide the most context and truly allow each reader to fully evaluate all of the facts. But again, for practicality’s sake, this cannot be done.

This means that the reporter must constantly ask himself about what is absolutely relevant about each story, and make the corresponding edits to his piece. This means that inherently less than can be known about each story is ever included the final story. Therefore, each reader is placing trust in the reporter that he is doing his job faithfully and providing the details that are most important to know.

Beyond this, each editor in charge of each section must choose which stories to include and how much space he will subsequently give them.  This adds a second layer of subjectivity. The editor decides, based off of his own preconceptions, the relative importance of each new story. His own assumptions and psychological views come into play, consciously or subconsciously. Thus even if each reporter truly did what he could to provide only the most telling information, his story is still up for scrutiny by the editor.

Before any of this happens, whoever is in charge of assigning  stories to reporters must determine which leads are important, and which ones are not. Again, this process is determined psychologically and relies on preconceived notions and assumptions, again conscious or unconscious.

Obviously, each step in this whole process can be easily manipulated if any of the parties has a particular agenda that is being pursued. In the case of the above link, clearly mass media has, for the past 20 years, been telling a tale with no bearing on reality, or has been spinning the news in such a way as to promote the confusion about it. It begs the question, “What else has been hidden from us or willfully distorted?” The fact is, it is as important as ever to watch or read the news skeptically and to ensure that being informed goes beyond merely reading the headlines or just accepting what is being said. You just might end up believing a lie.

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