Be transparency-driven, not ideology-free

Imagine you are a newspaper reporter who just got assigned a story. You put your journalism hat on and start doing research, interviewing sources and taking notes. Your focus sharpens as you pick and choose from the information you have gathered. So how objective can you really be in your reporting?

To author ideology-free reporting, one has to be completely removed from personal values. Ideology isn’t just about politics—it also reflects one’s traditions, beliefs and social experiences. Despite efforts to achieve complete objectivity, one will inevitably project certain ideologies in one’s creative work.

“Transparency is the new objectivity,” said David Weinberger in 2009. He introduced this notion as a juxtaposition to early 20th-century journalism’s obsession with objectivity.

Media carry the values of people who create or influence them. As Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky pointed out in The Propaganda Model of News, media reflect the “economic and ideological conditions in which news is produced.”

The information reaching audiences might serve the interests of certain parties, such as media owners, reporters, sponsors, sources and public figures. If a charitable foundation for women empowerment funds a newspaper, for instance, it will most likely demand coverage that reflects its goals. Thus, media can never be completely objective or free from ideology.

Instead of developing an obsession with the notion of objectivity, media should encourage transparency. Audiences will become more empowered to build educated opinions about the information they are receiving if they can openly see its sources. Some online newspapers like the non-profit Texas Tribune, for instance, make publicly available a list of their founding donors.

Being open and transparent about the ideologies of owners, advertisers, sources and political figures involved in the production of media can better serve the public interest. At the very least, it will demonstrate trust in the judgment of readers.

Photo credit: gromgull