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Autonomy from Sources: Objectivity, Stenography, Bias, Instrumentalization, Advocacy and Partisanship

Reporters engaged in the richest and strongest boundary work regarding (the lack of) autonomy from politics. This section discusses these accounts in the order of perceived gravity of dependence and alliance between journalism and politics.


Political reporters were divided on the issue of objectivity, even more so in the USA. This contrast was surprising. Despite the fact that objectivity has become a global journalistic value, though to different extent (Weaver and Willnat 2012) and with different meaning attached to it (Donsbach and Klett 1993; Hanitzsch et al. 2011), it is particularly deeply ingrained in the history of professionalization of US journalism (Kaplan 2002; Schudson 1978, 2001), perhaps even an “Anglo-American invention” (Chalaby 1996). Especially young reporters in the LCA, who were more adept with social media and multimedia journalism, were most critical and dismissive of objectivity: “I think that journalists do themselves a disservice when they are robotically objective in their coverage, because the world is not objective” (Interview, LCA reporter, May 18, 2010), said one of them.3

LP reporters were not exactly united on the issue of objectivity either. Journalists who were less involved with daily news reporting, including print and TV magazines and, curiously, journalists working for public service companies tended to be more critical of objectivity and demanded more analytical news coverage and more definitive positions on issues.

One of them said: “What is objective? My choice of topics is already not objective. The question what I put first in a broadcast is already not objective. This can’t be the yardstick. There is no objectivity in magazine journalism in my view” (Interview, LP reporter, May 30, 2012).

Particularly, newspaper and wire service reporters used objectivity and values associated with it (detachment, neutrality, etc.) in more positive ways. A newspaper reporter, for instance, defined his public responsibility as feeling “obliged to impart a relatively objective picture” (Interview, LP reporter, April 17, 2012). Contrary to the US case, these differences were not related to age and seniority or to the degree of digital media adoption in the German case.

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