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March 1993


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Benjamin Leontief Alpers <[log in to unmask]>
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Benjamin Leontief Alpers <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 2 Mar 1993 18:23:16 EST
text/plain (36 lines)
Recent comments by Ernie and kjf (sorry for not having a more normal name
to attach to this list member) indicate a rather disturbing tendency on the
part of some to use     objective/subjective debates of the sort that has
recently been taking place on this list as a weapon against, for lack of
a better word, post-modern thinking on this subject.  I'm not sure that one
couldn't launch a critique of the post-modern based on some of what's been
written here, but Ernie and kjf, it seems to me, have failed to do it.
Ernie's example of the quarterback (" . . . felt  depressed" = subjective;
"said he felt depressed" = objective) and kjf's example of the President's
trip ("the purpose of the trip is . . ." = subjective; "White House sources
indicate that the purpose of the trip is . . ." = objective) both make the
same mistake.  Even in the case of the supposedly "objective" accounts offered
by Ernie and kjf, the notion that the quarterback's feelings are important
or that the opinions of "White House sources" (a rather grand term for
someone who might well be a communications flunky) are critical things
to report are decisions that must be made subjectively.  To suggest (as I
image Ernie and kjf would) that these are important because of some external
notion of journalistic standards is merely to deny responsibility.  I fail
to see what is so objective about our current canon of journalistic importance
(see the earlier discussion about being photographed in front of the White
Most disturbing of all is kjf's suggestion that somehow all of this denial
of journalistic subjectivity is part and parcel of some sort of assault
on "critical thinking."  Quite the opposite, I would say.  By largely
ditching the notion of journalistic objectivity, I would hope we would
be simultaneously calling on all readers to read EVERYTHING critically,
to be unwilling to accept ANYTHING as "just the facts."  I _can_ imagine
an argument against notions of objectivity that would be based on some
fairly mushy ideas of "everyone's opinions are as good or as bad as
everyone else's" but that's not what I'm reading in this discussion.
-- Ben Alpers
   Princeton University