Friday, March 04, 2005

This is how I judge objectivity, how do you judge objectivity?

Before I even read any article at any time, I make a quick calculation in my head about objectivity. The way I countenance various factors boils down to one thing, I guess - conflict of interest. For instance, any article in any of the Australian press that talks about (aus) politicians, I will completely ignore. Why? Because the Australian press relies very heavily on political advertising for its basic revenue stream, and there is no way that any would risk offending either of the two major parties (or if they offend one they're deferring to the other major - not the minor parties!). This is fine by me, as it entrenches a stable two party preferred system, but it does not make for objective political journalism in Australia! Similarly, if I was reading something from a trusted friend about Public vs Private funding of Universities, would I really believe they were being objective if they are being paid for doing research by a publicly funded university? I certainly wouldn't if I didn't know him so well:-), but he is certain to be surrounded by people not as objective as he is. Would I think an article was objective about Israel if it was in the Jerusalem Post? No, probably not. It's not about whether it matches with my sense of reality, but what possible conflicts of interests there are. Sources, proof, evidence, calculations don't necessarily make an article objective; and even if it (like the Economist article we are talking about) is essentially making a free market analogy demonstration of the concept that by letting the market for higher education run its course with less government involvement, universities will more effectively match both the needs and desires of students and researchers alike, much as grocery stores match the needs and desires of our stomachs. Power to the appetite for learning!

2 comments:

Dr. Clam said...

I am asserting that no reportage is objective. I believe it is more valuable to read obviously subjective reportage from various sources, aware that they are subjective, and try to disentagle the reality from the biases of the reporters, than it is to look for a truly 'objective' source of news in some mare's nest on Big Rock Candy Mountain. This way you not only learn the 'facts' but just as important for any political issue, what the different players believe the facts to be, and the way these facts fit into their worldview.

Dr. Clam said...

Please don't call me objective! The sense-impressions I chose to notice, and the intepretations I put on them, are obviously conditioned by my status as an employee of a publicly-funded institution, as a married parent, as an Australian (specifically as a rural and regional Australian), as an American(specifically as a blue county in red state American), as a more-or-less collapsed Catholic, and as a fanatical raving looney! You should always bear this in mind... :)