Thoughts on Psychology

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“Objectivity” and the View from Nowhere

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There’s a nice piece here on the “View from Nowhere” in journalism. This is described as a position where it is assumed that objectivity can be achieved by refusing to adopt a position towards a news story. Rather than delivering a story from a particular perspective, the reporter is expected to present the views of others, and facts as others see it, achieving balance by ensuring an equal number or duration of views from different sides of contentious issues. In this model, the reporter is solely an agent transmitting the ideas of others, with as little input from their own thought processes as possible. The article argues that this is a false premise, and that it’s impossible to achieve a view from nowhere: we cannot adopt no position, and trying to hide our true position in the name of “objectivity” serves to obscure when we should aim for transparency. Worse, the article goes on to suggest, encouraging journalists to adopt a view from nowhere is to deny the expertise of the journalist, and their role in the investigation and understanding of a story. The article suggests that the journalist is a knowledge worker, not a passive channel to transmit the claims of others, and that their job should be to help us to understand a situation while being transparent about the position they are adopting towards it.

I like this article a lot, partly because I agree with it when it comes to journalism, but mainly because it’s the position I try to adopt in my lectures. Academics are employed to be knowledge producers and analysers, not relayers of received wisdom, and as such need to actively construct a position towards a body of knowledge while admitting to the factors that influence that position. That’s why my books include a biographical sketch that includes a statement of my political position, so that my position is transparent and my analysis can be understood in those terms.



Written by daijones

December 21, 2011 at 1:05 am

Posted in Full post

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