Flag Waving Is Fine on the 4th of July, But....

Call it objectivity...call it "Fair and Balanced"...call it anything you want.

I don't think there are many who care about this more than I do...the issue of whether someone, in covering a story (particularly a controversial one) has a personal "agenda".

I truly try to be objective.  If you're wondering what I mean by that, it's basically putting aside any personal feelings or opinions about an issue aside while reporting a story.  It's practically the same as sitting on a jury: when people are being selected to decide a court case, they are asked whether they have any personal feelings related to the case in question, and, moreover, whether those feelings would affect their ability to decide the fate of the person being tried.

It goes past the oft-used phrase "Fair and Balanced".  That simply means the reporter presents all sides of a story.  "Objective", I believe, goes beyond that.  It means the reporter keeps his/her personal feelings out of it entirely.

I have, in the past, been assigned to stories where, I believed, the person assigning the story wanted it reported a certain way: one reflecting the person's own beliefs or feelings. Usually...even at the risk of offending the person in question, I've done my best to avoid that.

More than 20 years ago, WTAP broke the story alleging certain law enforcement members were engaged in seeking sexual favors from people being charged with crimes.  It led to the conviction of one local police officer, but beforehand, the mayor of Parkersburg blasted the station for its coverage in a letter to the Parkersburg News. (Interestingly, the newspaper chose not only to run the letter in its "letters to the editor" section, but to quote from that letter in a news story in the same day's edition-talk about redundancy!)

For the most part, I was not involved in the coverage of that story, but I did cover the policeman's trial. Being well aware of the controversy, I did my best to present the testimony and keep any opinions about it to myself. 

There's a story right now that has already promised to be equally as controversial.  I intend to cover it the same way.  I think the public deserves it.


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