Why We Need Subjectivity In Journalism
In his WordPress blog, Mike Gene, author of The Design Matrix, defines 'objective knowledge' as "unbiased knowledge about the world around us", whereas 'subjective knowledge' "exists in the mind and pertains to the one who holds the knowledge." But biased is such a harsh word, isn't it? I think so, which is my subjective opinion, but it's also, often used to describe negative things, such as racial or gender discrimination, which is an objective analysis. Do away with the fancy wording and we have a simple definition of each: 'objective knowledge' is the collected fact, and 'subjectivity' is the resulting opinion. Our society strives for objectivity in journalism, which is understood as a quest for truth. Journalism isn't about developing opinions; it's about developing and distributing knowledge of the facts. But opinions aren't a bad thing.
Opinion is the subjectivity in the writing, which is not the truth, but a derivative of the writer's feelings based on the facts. Subjectivity is the judgement that the writer makes, which I consider the overall sum of their journalism. Once a writer has the facts, naturally they will come to some conclusion based on those evidences. To exclude it is to exclude the human conclusion that has been born from the search for truth. Imagine if Hunter S. Thompson--author of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, hero of the American Dream, and the most famous subjective reporter in America today--hadn't expressed his vivid opinions in his journalistic writing! It would take the uninhibited life away from his precious Gonzo Journalism.
An objective article is a direct, written representation of the facts. Laying out the truth in an objective way allows the reader to form their own opinion, unbiased by the writer; but a subjective article can suggest to them an angle on the facts that they themselves hadn't seen. The truth can be changed by the exclusion of certain facts, the inclusion of others, the framing or overall tone of the piece; but a subjective article boldly throws out these tricks and instead says exactly what is on the writer's mind. I much prefer this out-frontness compared to the possibility that a writer is purposefully or accidentally warping the facts due to their implicit biases. That is my opinion.
Some may agree, and some will surely disagree, but for those who fear that someone with little knowledge of the facts will push their opinions and brainwash the masses: in proper journalism, the sources are there for everyone to check, double check, and triple check. People can distinguish between fact and fiction, truth and opinion, knowledge and belief. Balance is kept due to the distribution of knowledge, so subjectivity can be taken as is, without any downsizing. The downsizing comes from this power check--opinion will only survive as long as the facts that back it, so don't be afraid to give your two cents if you've properly assessed the situation.
So, what to do in light of this? I say--and this IS my opinion, after all--that we need to put the people behind written journalism back on the front lines! Involve yourself in the story, practice Gonzo, preach your opinion if you can back it up! Seek understanding, then share it. Journalists are Gatherers Of Truth and Formers Of Viewpoints--not autonomous drones reporting only percentages. Once a certain field of knowledge has been crossed, an opinion can be a highly valuable thing... of course, that's just my opinion.