Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers

By Michael Schudson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
OBJECTIVITY,
NEWS MANAGEMENT, AND
THE CRITICAL CULTURE

IN THE 1960s "objectivity" became a term of abuse. In the thirties, critics who had attacked objectivity favored interpretive reporting as a way of maintaining professional standing in a world which had outgrown the blunt approach of "just getting the facts." But, in the sixties, the goal of professionalism itself had become suspect. Critics claimed that urban planning created slums, that schools made people stupid, that medicine caused disease, that psychiatry invented mental illness, and that the courts promoted injustice. Intellectuals, no longer seen as the source of dispassionate counsel, were dubbed the "new mandarins," while government policy makers were called "the best and the brightest" in a tone of most untender irony. And objectivity in journalism, regarded as an antidote to bias, came to be looked upon as the most insidious bias of all. For "objective" reporting reproduced a vision of social reality which refused to examine the basic structures of power and privilege. It was not just incomplete, as critics of the thirties had contended, it was distorted. It represented collusion with institutions whose legitimacy was in dispute. And there was an intense moral urgency in this view. By the

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