by Dr. Robert Luebke
Senior Fellow, Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Impartiality means reporting, editing, and delivering the news honestly, fairly, objectively, and without personal opinion or bias.
Credibility is the greatest asset of any news medium, and impartiality is the greatest source of credibility.
To provide the most complete report, a news organization must not just cover the news, but uncover it. It must follow the story wherever it leads, regardless of any preconceived ideas on what might be most newsworthy.
The pursuit of truth is a noble goal of journalism. But the truth is not always apparent or known immediately. Journalists’ role is therefore not to determine what they believe at that time to be the truth and reveal only that to their readers, but rather to report as completely and impartially as possible all verifiable facts so that readers can, based on their own knowledge and experience, determine what they believe to be the truth.
When a newspaper delivers both news and opinions, the impartiality and credibility of the news organization can be questioned. To minimize this as much as possible there needs to be a sharp and clear distinction between news and opinion, both to those providing and consuming the news.
Does this statement sound controversial?
You just read the core values statement of Walter Hussman. Hussman made a $25 million dollar gift to the UNC School of Journalism and that school now bears his name. As part of the gift, Hussman required the statement to be prominently displayed in the lobby of the UNC School of Journalism.
The statement is an affirmation of longstanding journalistic standards. It now appears some UNC faculty are squeamish about the statement.
Last week The Raleigh News and Observer reported several faculty were dismayed over the display of statement in the lobby of the school and on the school’s web site. So much so, that after a meeting of faculty, the statement was removed from the school’s web site.
There has been endless discussion about Hussman’s role in the controversy surrounding Nikole Hannah-Jones recruitment by the school. That’s all well and good and will be an issue where differences may persist.
That said, I’d like to know with what part of the core values statement UNC faculty disagree.
Credibility? A commitment to pursuing the truth? Impartiality? Keeping a sharp clear line between news and opinion?
This is troubling — to say the least — and indicative of the changing nature of journalism.
But here is another problem. It’s also hard not to notice, no faculty who disagreed with Hussman went on record. Understandable, but cowardly.
Looks like The News & Observer didn’t press the point. Isn’t it best to know who is involved in the controversy and why?
Was there a reason why specific information regarding why faculty were hesitant about the statement was not included? Were they not asked? Or, did faculty refuse to provide an answer?
Is that good journalism?
That journalism is a troubled profession is an assertion few would debate.
This story merely provides a few more reasons why.