Fair and Balanced: A History of Journalistic Objectivity

Article excerpt

Knowlton, Steven R. and Karen Freeman, eds. Fair and Balanced: A History of Journalistic Objectivity. Northport, Ala.: Vision Press, 2005. 245 pp. $24.95.

The tide of this book is likely to make one wonder what Fair and Balancedwill offer that Michael Schudson's and Herbert Schiller's works have missed. This is answered in the introduction, which states the book is a result of an American Journalism Historians Association conference panel on journalistic objectivity in which Discovering the News and Objectivity and the News were praised but seen as incomplete. Editor Steven R. Knowlton explains Fair and Ba/anced was designed to add more perspectives to this subject by using a multi-authored approach.

The authors suggest this research builds on the work of Schiller and Schudson, but it also spotlights problems in these sources. Knowlton notes: "Although both Schudson and Schiller believed they had determined when objectivity took hold in American Journalism both cannot be right because their answers are clear, certain and nearly a century apart."

While Schudson and Schiller made cases for objectivity during certain time periods, Fair and balanced makes a case for a variety of possibilities. Perhaps the most valuable lesson in the book is that the issue of when objectivity began is much less clear cut than has been traditionally believed. Fair and Balanced has further value not merely in the questions it answers but in the questions it raises. For this reason it is an important discussion tool for students and reference for researchers.

However, it is not without problems. The value of the chapters ranges from high to low. …