The Beakon: Objective disinterest

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This may not seem like the best time to say this, but forget about your emotions. They aren’t helpful. They aren’t useful. Just forget they ever existed.

OK, with your emotions shut down, imagine you’re sitting at your workplace composing a 100-page research paper on the devastation of wildfires and shootings that have very recently rampaged through your community. You get to work, mind as blank as a clear, blue sky, and finish that research paper without shedding a tear. This is a near perfect example of objective disinterest. And, it isn’t easy.

The concept of objective disinterest is frequently used in news-based journalism (excluding opinion-based writing) where a reporter must pull themselves away from their emotions in order to practice unbiased, non-interventionist journalism. It’s important to be able to distance yourself emotionally, while also immersing yourself physically in a story — creating space for audience interpretation while also connecting to readers.

It seems as though our modern world is solely communicated through individualistic opinions, biases and ideas. And while it is crucial to have this communication for the betterment of our society, journalists must be able to shut this behavior of non-neutrality off at a moment’s notice in order to write hard-news.

Objectivity in its ideal form looks like a blank sheet of paper: nothing for journalists to write down until they conduct research, gather facts and look objectively at all sides.

Journalists must serve everyone as “objective advocates for plural democracy,” according to the distinguished professor and media ethicist Stephen J.A. Ward. Ward claims that humans are flawed due to error found in their prejudices, ideologies, faulty logic and interests: “Objective beliefs map the world. Subjective beliefs fail to map.” Journalists, as followers of their own code of ethics, should practice pragmatic objectivity that is “plural and holistic.”

All sides have a fair point, no side is unfairly represented.

If we were to cover the community impact of the Borderline shooting through a hard-news piece, we could not dramatize the actions of the gunman, we couldn’t play off the heartbroken emotions of the families and we couldn’t insert our own opinions on gun-control or political policies for California’s future.

Of course, journalists still feel all types of emotions (yes, we are emotive human beings after all, not aliens from the galactic planet of “Fakenewsica”). It doesn’t mean we bottle emotions up and force them into temporary dormancy for the rest of our young adulthood, it just means we ignore the strength of their presence for the sake of truthful, reliable journalism based in tones of neutrality.

Almost two weeks into November, tragedy struck our community — twice.

As you read through news from this month’s special edition featuring the California wildfires and Borderline Bar & Grill shooting, remember that it took everything we had to produce factual journalism, hard-news pieces, that relied on objective disinterest when our community was literally burning to the ground.

We hope you take away something useful from this edition, as we have literally put everything into it, except our tears.

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