Comparison of objectivity in American and Chinese press (by Cherry, Ivan and Ann)

Comparison of objectivity in American and Chinese press (by Cherry, Ivan and Ann)

Last week we learned the concept of objectivity, ideally a faith in ‘facts’, a distrust of ‘values’ and a commitment to their segregation. We understood it from four different aspects: fact accuracy, disinterestedness, practices and ritual. It is obvious that reporters are supposed to inform the public of what the real story is. However, when looking at the process of news making from the perspective of people within a news organization, I noticed that objectivity is never a goal that can be achieved but a myth constrained by all kinds of pressure within and without the news organization.

As is known to all, a fact about something can be naturally positive, neutral or negative. In this sense, every single piece of this kind of news can be described as objective if it is the true reflection of the fact itself. It is the selecting process which is done by professionals that defines what the final version of news basically looks like. If more positive ones are chosen, then the newspaper sends a positive message of the subject to the audience. If more negative ones are decided to be covered, then a bad impression will be left on the public.

When I recall news that was concerned with America in Chinese newspaper in the recent years, I find that most of them are neutral facts or positive ones. The overall image of America portrayed by the Chinese press is a prosperous, democratic and highly-developed country while the image of China presented by the American press is a typical socialist country which in their mind is always autocratic and undemocratic. As to the content of those news stories, China often chooses formal political and economic events to cover while the US prefers to cover those informal stories told by common people or anti-government organizations. Apparently they are both telling the truth, but when we take a look at their selection of news, an implicit preference reveals.

From my point of view, objectivity will be reduced whenever a kind of man-made selection process is involved. Finally, this consistent selection of most prominent media will set an overall image of a particular subject which of course has something that is hidden by the media and is at least unknown to the public for the time being. Preference of some kinds of news is very common in the coverage of political issues. Newspaper then is not only a story-teller but also a public defender. In China, relationship between the government, the party and the newspaper is always close. So it’s not strange at all to see that most coverage of America is positive or neutral if China is devoted to form a good relationship with the US in the economic, political or military field. In America, a kind of unfriendliness towards socialist countries defines China’s overall image in the public even though China has recently made great progress in the development of economy and so forth.

Ignorance is an art. Objectivity is never a goal that can be achieved but a myth constrained by too many factors. Reporters tell stories for some purposes or with some emotion, particularly in the political field. So if journalists do want to be more objective, they had better let computers to do random selections of what combination of facts is appropriate.

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