As part of our on-going virtual debate about the supposed “objectivity” of National Geographic, we offer another match-up:
Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic magazine:
[Photographer Stephanie Sinclair] has no agenda. She does not judge. … She photographs what she sees and provides the opportunity for insight. The rest is up to the reader.
In a world full of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.
(We first posted this excerpt here.)
Jay Rosen teaches at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, blogs at PressThink, and tweets (a lot) on Twitter. He’s also the author of What Are Journalists For? (Yale University Press 2001). From a recent post at PressThink:
There is no act of journalism that is not saturated with judgment. Even a photograph is framed by the picture taker. … By not disclosing such acts, “just the facts” sows the seeds of mistrust. All it takes is an accumulation of users who want to know where these judgments arise from. Ostensibly “objective” accounts will fail that test. Mistrust will rise. As the clamor grows, journalists may misidentify it as a demand for even more objectivity. Now you have something that looks a lot like a death spiral, at least for those users who are no longer persuaded.
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“Death spiral” — now there’s a term that accurately describes National Geographic‘s current membership trajectory. But remember: During its heyday (1950 to 1980), National Geographic was proudly subjective, with writers and photographers sharing their first-person stories — and their worldviews — in the pages of the Society’s official journal.
For more on NGM’s tragic transition from journal of a Society to an outdated form of journalism (succinctly summed up and championed by Chris Johns, above), see this.