Examining the news from Nowhere and from Somewhere

Quoting “both” sides (as if there were only two) versus doing the hard work of reporting in order to find what Watergate legend Carl Bernstein calls “the best obtainable version of the truth” — this is the essence of the dichotomy between the mindless objectivity disparaged by Jay Rosen as the View from Nowhere and the far superior View from Somewhere.

Last week you were asked to come up with examples of each. Here’s what you found.

Carly Metz offers two stories from The New York Times. The first, on abortion rights in Kansas, might be called a she-said/she-said article. The second, on a controversial rape case at Columbia University, makes a real attempt to find out what actually happened. “With its explaining of both sides, as well as providing more information and not mindless quoting of others that allows the journalist to get off scot-free, I felt that this story was a clear cut view from somewhere,” Metz writes.

Diane Keusseoglou found viewlessness in a BBC summary of a Washington Post story on gun violence in the United States — and a point of view in a Reuters article on climate change. Rather than simply quoting partisans, Keusseoglou tells us, “The report explains that the UN goals for climate change might be unachievable according to recent data, but that on the other hand there is still hope that certain goals can be met.”

Rather than comparing two stories, Lamaan Gallal has some thoughts on objectivity, writing that “it is not enough to report both sides of a story, without doing in depth reporting and investigative work. Depending on who is reading, a journalist will always be seen as taking sides or showing bias towards one side or another.”

Mackenzie Nichols highlights the value of personal experience by telling us about Charlene Smith, a journalist and sexual violence counselor who has written about her harrowing experience of being raped in South Africa. “Her ‘view from somewhere’ has been particularly influential as she educates her readers by using her own story of sexual violence,” Nichols says.

A recent BBC story on the debate in the U.S. Senate over the Patriot Act exemplifies the View from Nowhere, writes Molly Dunn: it is “well written and concise,” but “its focus is on the disagreements about the Act in the Senate, not on the Act itself.” By contrast, a recent opinion piece in The Boston Globe by Dante Ramos makes a strong argument that the Fung Wah bus line should be given another chance.

Here is Monica Cole‘s solution to the problems posed by overly simplistic notions about objectivity: “If something is wrong or unhelpful to people in understanding an issue, then it shouldn’t be reported on. Why give a voice to the misinformed when they are misinformed and simple journalistic research can be done to prove this?”

Sara Al Mheiri examines a BBC news story and a Washington Post opinion piece about a Supreme Court ruling that a young Muslim woman was discriminated against for wearing a hijab to a job interview at Abercrombie & Fitch. Al Mheiri saw value in both stories, but says of the commentary, “You get the feeling that the reporter is someone of similar ethnic background who somewhat deals with the same situations.”

When covering restrictive new voting laws, Tom Culman writes, The New York Times generally does a good job of explaining that such laws are aimed at solving a problem that doesn’t exist. But Culman cites an example of false balance in a Times story on the subject — and a response by the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

Kareem Fahim of The New York Times betrays no hint of bias in reporting on political prisoners in Egypt, says Zeina Abu-Hijleh. By contrast, she notes that Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe indulges in rather caustic opinionating in describing the 2015 Red Sox. “It can be argued that maybe in sports one does not need to be objective,” Abu-Hijleh writes, “but at the end of the day, if you’re writing for the Boston Globe and you’re hating on the Red Sox, people aren’t really going to like you.”


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