When Objectivity Meets its Match

Guest Post by: Meghan Hickey, Student and Brand Story Enthusiast

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“News should be objective.” We’ve all heard it, and we’ve all laughed and flipped to our favorite news channel that spins the story in the way that we want to hear. Whether you choose FOX, MSNBC, CNN, or ABC, you’re making either the conscious or unconscious decision to hear your news in a certain way. And that’s okay.

The fact is that, yes, media provides fact, but it also provides the framework to understand the facts provided. Ethicists believe that media’s primary function is to provide citizens with information that will allow them to make informed political choices. Objectivity is the obvious means to do so, but does there come a time when objectivity is simply too much for the average public to handle?

Maybe, the late, James Foley would have had a say in that.

In light of the current conflict in the Middle East involving the oppression of Christians by ISIS and much more, raw footage of beheadings, mass shootings, and other gruesome events have made their way to American media in big ways. And when I say gruesome, I don’t mean your average cartoon blood spout. These images create awareness of the severity of the massacres happening oversees – but do they also serve another, less heroic purpose?

Terrorism is an act of communication. Yet, it’s a form of communication that cannot function on its own. Media and terrorism act as catalysts for each other, the media needing stories to report news, and terrorism needing media to report its stories. The stories showing ISIS murdering and torturing endless amounts of people aren’t just stating objective facts – they’re creating a way for ISIS to be heard, and showing their leaders that if they continue to act as they are, they WILL be noticed. It is up to the media to break that cycle of communication by changing the way in which they communicate.

And that is where I believe objectivity meets its match – with humanity.

We’re all humans. It’s what has helped us remain the superior form of life for as long as we have. However, when we allow objectivity and the cruelty and fear that can come with it to break down our humanity, we risk losing the one thing that binds each and every one of us together.

With humanity, we take on the role of moral witness. We take on the responsibility to report stories in a way that, yes, uses a frame to bring people together in defense of humanity, instead of against it. It is when we are able to recognize the need to set objectivity aside, and report in the name of humanity, that great stories and honorable reporters are able to break the cycle that terrorism relies on, and truly report news as it should be – truthful, just, and humane.

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