Objectivity and Conflict of Interest Meet
By Felicia Naoum
The world is not all “peaches and cream”. Most of us know this. We can’t always do what we want to do, and say what we want to say. According to News Reporting and Writing (11th ed.), journalists are in the public eye, and must adhere to standards like any other profession, but the standards of journalists are lived in front of the world. If you’re working in the media, it almost feels like you, too, are in the media.
Take my own experience for instance. I’ve always been a lover of whales. They fascinate me. For the longest time, I wanted to compose a feature piece on a major amusement park attraction and dig up, not the dirt, but the good they do. Before this class, I contacted the manager and was in communication with a staff person at the park. I was on the trajectory to possibly landing my feature. Through this connection, I felt I was closer to the far away world that fascinates me, and closer to a piece I would be so proud of. I started conducting interviews and the conflict began. I completed the first interview that took the feature right out of my piece. I was concerned and confused. I thought to myself, “This was supposed to place the park in a positive light and now I have an opponent.” I didn’t want to be a dishonest or biased journalist by leaving out something I dug up myself. But at the same time, I didn’t want to cease this potential feature.
I brought concerns to professors and learned that we can’t always write about the positive or the happy. We must write about what is and what we find or “dig up” as my current professor continues to teach us. I was reminded through JRN 301: Newsgathering and Reporting the importance of objectivity that we must all follow.
Of course, I still want to dig up the good on amusement attractions and feature them. I love feature writing and have done a fair amount of it. But I learned that it must be done under a different hat. If we’re going to report under general assignments, we must do that. If we’re going to feature write, then we must do that. We must be the journalists that we are, under the hat we are wearing. I think of it in these terms as well. A heart doctor must focus on the heart and an eye doctor must focus on the eyes. Pay close attention to your role and be careful which lines you cross.
As journalists, the world wants to know that you are not against them. Of course, you’re not choosing a side either. You are…what’s that word? Objective. Yes, you are remaining objective, not only in your writings, but in your actions, too.