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The Limits of Objective Reporting

Journal of Language and Politics, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 138-157, 2008

37 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2008  

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

University of Hull

Date Written: November 26, 2007


The aim of this study is to scrutinize the assumption that objective reporting is good reporting, is ethical reporting. I do this by reflecting on different dimensions that are associated with the concept of objectivity: (1) accuracy; (2) truthfulness; (3) fairness and balance, and (4) moral neutrality. It is asserted that in many cases journalists are not objective in their reporting either because they consciously prefer not to be or because they are being manipulated by their sources. I close by asserting that the values of not harming others and respecting others should play a prominent part in the considerations of journalists. These are basic ethical standards that sometimes require normative reporting. Consequently, morally neutral coverage of hate speech and racism is a bad idea. It is a false and wrong conception. Subjectivity is preferable to objectivity when the media cover illiberal and anti-democratic phenomena.

Keywords: accuracy, balance, fairness, hate speech, moral neutrality, objectivity, racism, terror, truthfulness

JEL Classification: zoo

Suggested Citation

Cohen-Almagor, Raphael, The Limits of Objective Reporting (November 26, 2007). Journal of Language and Politics, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 138-157, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Raphael Cohen-Almagor (Contact Author)

University of Hull ( email )

Cottingham Road
Hull, Great Britain HU6 7RX
United Kingdom


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