Journalistic objectivity in Media risk debates: challenges & opportunities

N Praveen Kumar


Journalists profess that their goal and responsibility is to provide an unbiased account of a news story to the public. Journalistic objectivity implies that a journalist has to present all sides of an argument fairly while reporting a news story without any personal interest. The biggest challenge to the objective norm rises out when dealing with stories which involve risk to people. Risk stories are stories which deal with accidents, disasters, epidemic outrage or about emerging technologies. Giving balance views of opposing/two sides may in fact create uncertainty and fear among the people. If there is no alarm, then the task of a journalist is left unaccomplished. Scholars in media studies and other disciplines see media as an instrument for social control, even though media organizations proclaim themselves to play a ‘watchdog’ role in society. Contrary to the notion of objective journalism, advocacy journalists strongly criticize this norm and argue that neutrality or nonpartisanship is almost impossible in practice as newspapers inevitably take a point of view while covering news and are more often dependent on corporates. Media scholars like Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky show how such a notion of objective journalism in practice is pro-establishment and favors only powerful corporates. Is media bias an intrinsic part of journalism and is journalist objectivity possible forms the basic question of this paper. The paper sets to argue that this norm even though may not be real or existing one, but is definitely a desirable one.


objectivity, risk communication, balance, polarization, journalistic norms

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Published by Centre for Environment, Education and Economic Development (CEEED), Assam.