Tag Archives: news business

Is Objective Journalism Doomed?

Do you ever wonder what happened to objective journalism? I have a thought about that.

Until the web changed everything, we got our news from a very few sources: There was a newspaper or two in every city. There were three major networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, offering television and radio news. There were a few independent channels in each market, both on radio and television. And there were the national magazines, Time, Life, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report.

What we called journalistic ethics back then were also good business. All of those major news providers had to stay objective in order to reach a commercially viable audience.


If Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley seemed biased, then nobody would have believed them. They had to stay in the middle to appeal to the general audience. Trust, professionalism, and credibility were the only way to make it big in news.

Sure, we also had the tabloids at the grocery store checkout counters, but nobody believed them. They didn’t depend on credibility to succeed, the way the major news sources did.

Today, however, the huge difference is that pulverization and special focus is everywhere. Newspapers are struggling but look at blogs and cable channels and the Huffington Post, and focus, even focus on a small portion of the political or economic spectrum, makes money, Consider Fox News on one hand and Huffington Post or all those absurdly extremist radio talk show hosts, and the handful of liberal ones too … they all make money by gathering an interest group or affinity group together, shutting out the outside world, or the objective real world, and talking only to believers.

As far as I can tell the traditional media, the ones I mentioned above, are still striving for objectivity.  To the extent that they still exist. But they are steadily losing power, audience, and importance.

I didn’t have a name for it then, but t was first aware of newsjacking more than 3o years ago. Here’s how

Web Ink Now: Brilliant Newsjacking alert – The Artistifier: “”


Does the News Business Die Along with Newspapers?

In the olden days, when I was a grad student in Journalism, for instance, or a night editor for UPI, the business model of the news business was fairly clear:

  1. News organizations sold advertisements.
  2. They needed news to get readers to be able to sell the ads.
  3. News needed credibility to get the readers.

So we had a news business.

We tend to forget the factor of volume, as related to credibility. Newspapers, and later, television news, had to appeal to a mass audience in order to make a living. That helped us generate a news ethic, such as objectivity — covering the news, trying to keep opinion out of it.

News was never really objective, of course. But there was the goal of objectivity. As journalists, most of us tried to be objective. And when we weren’t being objective and we knew it, we tried to make our bias clear, and label the content something different from news.

“Yellow journalism” was about sensationalizing the news. And it was always a problem, back in those olden days. Some media did it more than others.

News values changed with the growth of television news. The business of selling ads got better with more audience, and the audience liked celebrities, violence, puppies, and things that could fit into 30-second spots.

What we didn’t imagine, back then, was the splintering of the audience into different interest groups; the impact of having 600 channels on the television, and millions of websites. That changed the business entirely, and we — not just the journalists, but the world at large — haven’t figured that out yet.

Specifically, what does that mean? Well, to start with, now you can make a good business being the blatantly conservative television cable news channel, for example. You don’t have to appeal to a cross section; you appeal to a segment. And you can do the same as the blatantly liberal blog/news source.

So what does this mean for news?