Is objective reality a myth?

PASCH global

But what happens when the journalist cannot separate his feelings from his professional tasks? What if his personal opinion creeps into his articles? And what are the consequences if the reader regards this opinion as objective truth?

What is objectivity in the press anyway? For a long time it has been claimed that an article is only written objectively if the journalist does not have his own opinion in the reporting. Another view is expressed in the words of Kai Biermann, a journalist from Germany: “Journalists are allowed to take a stand, but they have to make it clear when this happens. There may not be completely objective reporting, but the aim of journalistic work should first and foremost be that the reader can form his / her own opinion based on the facts presented ”.

Objectivity in the press is the topic of many studies that are conducted around the world. Communication scientist Cornelia Mothes has published a study on objectivity in the media. There the opinion is also expressed that the norm of objectivity is one of the most important norms in journalism. At the same time also one of the most controversial. What do the experts think of the subject of objectivity? We asked the freelance journalist Tetiana Goncharuk about the situation in Ukraine. The expert names the uncertain sources and the use of such words as “one says” or “according to rumors” as the main problem. In the field of military journalism there is also the term "hate speech" which is very far from being objective. Ms. Goncharuk claims that absolute objectivity is impossible a priori, but that one must first and foremost separate free opinion from “paid” opinion [in Ukraine].

In a conversation with Antonia Schaefer, a freelance journalist from Hamburg, we learned that she also believes that there is no objectivity, only fact-based reporting. The danger lies in the selection of the facts. Personal experiences, cultural space, outside influences form the opinion of the journalist, who, in their opinion, refers to certain facts and overlooks other facts. So one speaks of the framing problem. And this approach is fundamentally wrong, because as a journalist you are also an opinion maker.

When asked why so much about Trump was popularized in the German media, Ms. Schaefer replied that the US exerts influence on the whole world, and what happens in the US affects the whole world. And because Trump broke so many norms, most of the mainstream media turned against Trump. But one should have kept the reporting objectivity in order to prepare the audience for all possible outcomes.

Using the most current topic in the world - the US election - we looked through some articles in German and Ukrainian information resources and tried to identify their objective or subjective shading.

Nine sources of information were used: "Spiegel", "TAZ", "Zeit", "Süddeutsche Zeitung", "Deutsche Welle", "Pravda", "Sehodnja", "Unian" and "Korrespondent". The situation in the German media looks like this: among 21 articles, 13 are subjectively colored and eight are objective in character. In Ukraine the situation is a bit different: 16 articles were taken and the results are 50/50 straight away. It is noticeable that while sources such as “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, “Sehodnja” and “Unian” are objective, media such as “Deutsche Welle”, “Zeit”, “Pravda” present fairly subjective information.

The information agency UNIAN has published a poll of Ukrainians on the topic of Trump's win. A total of 3,300 people took part in the survey. According to the results of the survey, 30 percent of those questioned did not perceive the notification of Trump's win badly. "Nothing good can be expected for Ukraine from the administration of this populist," they said. 15 percent of those surveyed congratulated the winner and are convinced that he is better than Obama and that he can restore order in the world. Another 37 percent said it was too early to draw any conclusions and that many surprises could be expected from Trump. Eighteen percent of those surveyed were not interested in election results and said their life would not get any easier regardless of who becomes the next US president.
If you look deeper into the question, you can see the position of Ukrainian politicians, as reported by the Pravda newspaper.

"The future president, regardless of who becomes a responsible person," said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. "A shameless address by the presidential candidate Trump about the possible recognition of Crimea as part of Russia - a diagnosis of a dangerous outsider," said Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. The reactions are different, but it all depends on Trump's actions, not the criticism and opinions of him.

The main conclusion is that even objectivity is quite relative because there are always different sources of information, the choice of which is also the independent act of a journalist. It seems best to use resources where the judgment is lowest and the facts are clear and not preconceived.

A contribution by:
Karina Rybalko, Olha Medwedjewa and Yevhenii Nikolaiev

High School No. 1, Sumy
Shevchenko National University of Kiev

Discussion question: What do you think there is such a thing as objective journalism?