Subjective objectivity. How journalists in four countries define a key term of their profession

Donsbach, Wolfgang; Klett, Bettina
International Communication Gazette

'Objectivity' is one of the core professional values of journalism. However, there are many different definitions and interpretations of the term in the profession. These notions have changed over time in one country, and they differ between journalists in different cultural and political settings. In this paper we present comparative results of how journalists in different countries look at the term objectivity. The data are gathered from an international study of news journalists in democracies. In this survey, representative samples of reporters and editors who are involved in daily news decisions were interviewed with the same questionnaire. We show how journalists differ in their notion of objectivity and in the subjective importance which the professional value of objectivity has for them. Besides showing country-to-country differences, we try to assess what factors contribute to different professional attitudes towards objectivity within a single country. In a final part, the paper discusses the consequences of the different notions of objectivity for the audience's perception of reality and for the influence of the news media on public opinion.