Matthew J. Powers
Objectivity is a central yet contested tenet of modern journalism. At its core, it seeks to define the role that journalists should play in selecting, gathering and relaying news to the general public. While frequently viewed as a technique for reporting only the “facts” of a story, objectivity is more importantly understood as an idea whose meanings have changed over time. To question, criticize, and renegotiate objectivity is to rethink what is wanted and needed from journalism, and the society it covers. While the exact meaning of objectivity is always in dispute, there is an identifiable history of its nature and practice in American journalism. Historians cite the beginnings of the penny press (low-cost, tabloid-style papers) in the 1830s as its earliest formation. Prior to the 1830s, most American newspapers were partisan. Financed primarily by political parties, these papers also made use of paid subscriptions for revenue; in turn, the ...