Objectivity, neutrality, impartiality and balance

Notes to accompany Exeter Observer community journalism courses and news writing seminars.

Normative vs descriptive approaches

NB objectivity, neutrality, impartiality and balance are not the same as accuracy and clarity

Prominent positions on “good” journalism

(Recap of assignment ethics reading)

  1. Cynical

    • media ethics = oxymoron
    • journalist as hack
    • Nietzschean amoralism
    • sales are all that matter = let the market decide
    • don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story
  2. Individual/ad hoc responsibility

    • ethical relativism
    • codes are pointless, impractical and irresponsible
  3. Professional

    • independent free press vs state-controlled propaganda - personal liberty, freedom of expression
    • fourth estate inc. adversarial state vs media, campaigning
    • objectivity, neutrality, impartiality and balance = search for truth in the face of subjective anarchy and propagandist bias = sources balanced, fact not fiction, no value judgements
    • truthfulness - resistance to postmodern relativism
    • social responsibility and public interest - civic journalism aimed at revitalising public sphere
    • promotion of pluralism as mirror to society
    • codes of conduct/practice
    • value of training :-)

Critical responses

plus observations in hyperlocal journalism reading …

Recent stories
Great Western Hotel beside Exeter St David's railway station

Analysis  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter rough sleepers in COVID-19 emergency accommodation face uncertain future

Exeter City Council has yet to confirm whether it will use any of the £2.15m Rough Sleeping Initiative funding it has received since 2018 to keep housing rough sleepers when government emergency accommodation funding runs out.

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Exeter City Futures Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter City Council accepts climate emergency plan to make city carbon neutral by 2030

Chief Executive warns that resourcing the plan is "problematic" given COVID-19 financial challenges and that lack of resources limits the council's capacity for immediate practical action.

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Cyclists, pedestrians and cars compete for space on Union Road, Exeter, 1 June 2020

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Devon County Council fails to deliver promised COVID-19 cycling and walking infrastructure

Deadline for action on social distancing for safe travel set by county cabinet member passes despite Devon receiving £1.7 million share of government emergency fund.

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Department for Transport New Road Layout for Social Distancing coronavirus road sign

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans

Devon County Council's failure to deliver overdue Exeter transport strategy and cycling and walking plan has led to an inadequate response to government demands for emergency coronavirus road layout changes.

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Exeter Cathedral and Quay car park top deck

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus halts decision to spend £3.9 million on car park repairs and upgrade

Exeter City Council spending plans will be revisited in June at same time as Net Zero Exeter carbon reduction plan is discussed by Executive.

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