HARPER: Journalists’ ideals of objectivity unattainable

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Most news organizations have policies requiring that top management approve such speeches. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to provide a public list of these appearances, including transcripts, for readers and viewers to peruse?

Here’s some other information I’d like to know. How much does Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, make on his books and documentaries? Some journalists who covered the last presidential campaign have sizable book deals. Don’t potential conflicts of interest — something readers and viewers should know about — exist here?

I shout a resounding “yes.” But, as I mentioned earlier, people also should have access to a lot more information about the political views of journalists who cover specific beats and stories. I would be more than happy to provide this information.

Rather than continuing the debate about objectivity, fairness and balance, it is time to have journalists apply the same standards they ask others to follow. By revealing this information and embracing transparency, journalists would make it a lot easier for people to understand how stories get reported the way they do.

Christopher Harper is a professor of journalism at Temple University. He worked for The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20” for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at charper@washingtontimes.com.

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