objectivity

Perhaps objective journalism should ponder this. Instead of reflecting the different points of view – for example, the government, the opposition, the diplomats, the business interests, the people (is that Freudian that the people are last on that list?) – in a story and allowing each side a slice of the story, should we, instead, not divide our reports up in terms of relative percentages. So the people would get 95% of the space, and all the other groups would get a lot less. A story of 1000 words would have to give 950 to the views of the people. This might start to rebalance the glaring partiality of news all over the world. News tends to focus on business and politicians, or politicians and business, a highly unrepresentative group of people. OK, we are all told that we live in democracies and these politicians represent us, but of course, they don’t. They certainly don’t in countries where there haven’t been elections for many, many years; and they certainly don’t in countries where few people can be bothered to vote. We all know that. So why is it that journalists – myself included – spend so much time interviewing politicians? They can be fun to interview. But they can also be incredibly boring. People, on the other hand, are rarely dull. Very very rarely dull.
Journalistic objectivity is highly undemocratic. We divvy up space and seconds in terms of group membership, not group size. Money and power determine space, not numbers. Highly subjective. If I apply this to my own work, here in Angola, I should be spending at least a third of my time interviewing people in the slum areas in the capital, Luanda; half of my time should be spent outside of Luanda talking to members of the public in the other 17 provinces; and the rest of my time (is there any?) should be devoted to political and business leaders. Once a year, I could interview a diplomat!
Seen from an economist’s perspective, this is no doubt a flawed proposal. My time should be divided up in terms of relative economic power. So I’d have to spend the vast bulk of my waking hours with oil companies, the foreign and domestic business elite, politicians, construction and diamond companies. Once every so often, I could have a chat with a small farmer, a lady at the market and a hawker.
I don’t know how much more time I’ve got here. My visa is running out. Certainly, I’ll have to leave by the end of the month. Perhaps I should dedicate as much of that time as I can to the people who live in the slums of Luanda. I will try to leave the capital too (believe me I’ve been trying, but it’s a long story about a visa and a receipt and a plan ticket to Luena), and remind myself that Angola is not Luanda.

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