Objectivity: Does it have a place in blogs?

A response to Jeff Jarvis's call for death to objectivity in blogs.
Stephen Baker

A nuggett from Jeff Jarvis's article on new CBS blogger, Vaughn Ververs. "Try this on for size," Jarvis writes.

I think there’s no such thing as an objective blogger. Or you’re probably not blogging. You’re probably not talking with people, eye to eye. We’re about to kill the myth that journalists can be thoroughly objective; let’s not start trying to accrete that artificial ethic to blogs.

I would say that true objectivity is impossible for humans. We're subjective animals, and we have our skin in every game. Nonetheless, objectivity is worth maintaining as an ideal. In involves trying to be open-minded, to see other sides, and to be ready and willing to write articles that challenge the writer's views and hopes.

Do we try to be objective as bloggers? I don't think it's the right word. Our goal in the blog, as at the magazine, is to be fair and accurate, but to present a story or a post from a point of view. It's a line of analysis, our read on what the story means.

A key question for mainstream media bloggers, one we're only coming to grips with now: Are we freer with our opinions on the blog than in the pages of the magazine. Not really, I'd say. Individual bloggers, like Jarvis and so many others, speak for their own brands. We don't. Our blog has the BusinessWeek brand right up top. And if you do a search on Technorati, you see right away that many in the blog world refer to Blogspotting simply as BusinessWeek. We're part of the BW team--albeit the part without editors.

I have found this institutional link frustrating, on occasion. I went so far as to establish another blog, a personal one. But then I realized that if I spilled my views freely on that one, any restraint I showed on Blogspotting would be a mere formality.

Some bloggers argue that journalists should make public all of their private views and personal connections, anything in their lives that might sway their coverage. I have two objections to this. First, it's futile. Life experience is a tangle of tangles. And I consider it quite a paradox that some of the same people who say we're incapable of writing an objective news story want us to detail our own lives objectively. Would this mean mentioning the grade school bully who was black/Jewish/Irish Catholic, etc? Does he come before the sister who works for the ACLU, or the uncle who's a priest? Life is one big soup. And to try to put a life in any kind of order is to give it an angle.

Second, disclosure seems to assume that we're ruled by our past, and incapable of doing the job we're paid to do: reporting the full story and writing it fairly. Granted, lots of journalists fail this test. But I'd say we should be judged by our work, not our life resumes.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.