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Journalism and Social Justice: A Reform Agenda

Speaker: Thomas R. Schmidt

Moderator: Christian Christiensen

December 4th, 2020, 17:25-18:00 CET

Written by Tereza Patricie Prokopová

Key words: Journalism, Objectivity, Validity, Empathy, Reform

Short annotation, summary

Objectivity has always been a very discutable topic when it comes to the responsibility of putting forward information and consuming it afterwards. Its definition has never been clear and it’s going through a constant process. How and according to what rules should journalists behave when telling a story? And do they even take into consideration the impact of their published work?

The project or approach to be discussed in the session:

  • the term objectivity is very complicated to explain, usually the words neutrality, impartiality and detachment are connected with it

  • some aspects of objectivity are now no longer working for the current situation

  • objectivity is not a static concept, it is a dynamically evolving process

  • journalists do not often take into consideration the impact of their articles

  • it is substantial to be always empathetic but at the same time clear and straightforward in your articles (we should not hide behind euphemisms)

  • information without emotion is empty and hollow

  • emotional journalism is neither good or bad, it becomes what you want it to become

  • personal relationships are mixed with news consumption

  • problems are different from the inside and outside, its dynamics changes noticeably

  • that’s also why there should be more journalists of colours; they have a totally different insight into the racial inequality situation

Evidence of impact

It is evident from the current situation in the United States of America that journalists don’t take full moral and emotional responsibility for articles they publish. Many articles about racial inequality and police brutality that were written during the last few months have caused several demonstrations and riots. Nevertheless, journalists still kept publishing them without any awareness of what’s happening outside of their office.

Limitations, risks of the approach provided by the speaker

In this case, objectivity is the limit itself because of its problematic linguistic and practical defining. We have to yearn for empathetic journalism that wouldn’t be completely euphemistic.


1. Objectivity is not a single concept but an institutional set of holistic practices and ideas.

2. The opposite of objectivity is not subjectivity but “irrationalism, emotionalism, extreme religious fundamentalism, occultism, and fraudulent mysticism.” (Ward)

3. There’s no easy fix for building trust but there’s a range of options.


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