4 November 2013
By Ean Higgins
Objectivity and impartiality in journalism is a deceitful, old-fashioned and often dull and unprofitable concept in the new media age, a forum heard this morning.
Longtime ABC television journalist and producer Jonathan Holmes said "unadorned facts are meaningless" and "impartial objective news has been driven out" in some media markets.
The conference also heard American journalism professor Jay Rosen say "Old Testament" style journalism involving trying to galvanise and steer public opinion to a cause was making a comeback, and running alongside "New Testament" journalism, which developed in the 20th century, which placed high value on impartially presenting objective news.
Rosen and Holmes were speaking at the Public Knowledge Forum in Sydney organised by Sydney University's United States Studies Centre, which is discussing the digital revolution in media and its effect on democracy.
Rosen, from the journalism faculty at New York University, said Old Testament journalism was embodied in revolutionary writings in Britain and the US by activists such as Tom Paine.
Paine, the forum heard from Bard College foreign affairs professor Walter Russell Mead, would have been a blogger if he were alive today..
Old Testament journalism was "a turbulent ride, a precarious way of life" Rosen said.
The Old Testament style of journalism never disappeared, but started to lose its dominance in the early 20th century with the professionalisation of journalism and the creation of journalism schools.
Holmes said that while ABC viewers consistently told him "just give us the facts", their reading and viewing habits suggested what they really wanted was opinion, interpretation, and analysis.
In the US, CNN, which placed a high value on objectivity and impartiality, was struggling for market share against more opinionated news channels such as Fox.
While the ABC was legally required to enforce balance and objectivity under its Act, in fact many ABC board members believed the notion was "a farce", Holmes said.
This article was originally published at The Australian