May 29, 2021

Neutrality in journalism: Is it possible?

Meghan Rominger

In a conversation today with Paola Boivin, the Director of Cronkite News Sports Bureau, our class discussed the idea of neutrality in journalism and whether its existence -- especially in politically turbulent times -- is real or possible.

We discussed how appropriate it is to display your support for the Black Lives Matter movement on your social media channels. More specifically, how appropriate it is to use the hashtags #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter in your Twitter bio.

Boivin noted a profound quote from an author and podcast host, Lewis Raven Wallace, who said neutrality in journalism isn’t real because so often, our lived experiences make it impossible for us to be objective.

“Neutrality isn’t real: Neutrality is impossible for me, and you should admit that it is for you, too,” wrote Wallace in a Medium blog post.

And Wallace makes a great point. So often, the onus to be neutral or to give credence to “both sides” of a debate is placed on the people whose very humanity is being questioned, debased, or denied. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ journalists are often asked to “objectively” write stories about events or subjects that debate their humanity.

Being objective as a journalist is obviously important in terms of asking questions and reporting facts. But journalists should absolutely express their support for movements like Black Lives Matter and shouldn’t have to settle for jobs that require them to sacrifice their inability to be neutral.

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