CCMA Award Winner for Best Editorial 2021: Journalistic objectivity is a futile endeavor — what do we do instead?

The world is burning beneath our feet. In the United States alone, institutionalized racism has a death toll that grows higher every day, prisons mimic modern slavery, immigrants are kept in internment camps at the border, the environment has no protection from the corporations destroying it, and we are being ravaged by a deadly pandemic with negligible government support to mitigate its effects — all as we desperately try to crawl out of the quicksand of fascism into which our country is sinking. At the Campanil, we are not simply impartial observers to this apocalypse, we are also a part of it. We too are impacted. Our staff is diverse, with many people of color, queer people, disabled people, women and trans folk. This week we met as a group, looked at the state of the world, and asked: “What do we do? As journalists, what is our responsibility?”

As journalists, it is often said objectivity is the goal; but when objectivity becomes synonymous with respecting both or all sides of every story equally, what do we do when one side of the story is wrong, either objectively or morally? Is it not our journalistic responsibility to report the truth, even if that truth runs counter to the notion that there were, as former President Trump said, “very fine people on both sides”? 

As the Campanil staff, we sat around our virtual table and pondered these questions. While we discussed many different possibilities, we all emphasized one thing: whether or not objectivity can actually be achieved by any journalist, especially while also being truthful and just, we as journalists need to be doing something different. Journalists are the stewards of our culture, and thus we must not report merely with a sense of detached, clinical objectivity. We must report the whole truth, in a detailed context, compassionately and ethically, no matter how offensive or irregular the media establishment may find it.

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