View from nowhere
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In journalism ethics and media ethics, the term "view from nowhere" refers to a theory about the potential negative effects of neutrality in reporting whereby journalists may disinform their audience by creating the impression that opposing parties to an issue have equal correctness and validity, even when the truth or falsehood of the parties' claims are mutually exclusive and verifiable by a diligent researcher. Media critic and professor of journalism Jay Rosen has been a notable critic of the practice and promoter of the term. Rosen borrowed the term from philosopher Thomas Nagel's 1986 book The View from Nowhere.
Writer Elias Isquith argued in an article for Salon that "the view from nowhere not only leads to sloppy thinking but actually leaves the reader less informed than she would be had she simply read an unapologetically ideological source or even, in some cases, nothing at all".
Common patterns of illogic characterize view-from-nowhere reports
A journalist who excludes relevant pieces of information from the set of true facts is telling a lie of omission; if the audience had all the missing data, it would reach a different conclusion. A journalist who strives for neutrality may also fail to exclude popular and/or widespread untrue claims from the set of facts about the story. A journalist may fail to confront their audience's biases and wrong conventional thinking because they forget the existence of the people on the other side of camera or printing press, and thus don't analyze their audience and address the audience's preconceptions.
Jay Rosen has suggested that some journalists of weak character who don't want to anger any party in any way because they lack the necessary personal courage to confront wrong beliefs will adopt view-from-nowhere reporting.
Journalists suffering from innumeracy may also be a source of view-from-nowhere reports. When a source provides statistics to support their claims, and the reporter is unable to evaluate whether the numbers are plausible, they may uncritically relay false information rather than report that the source provided incorrect data.
A journalist who knows or suspects his bosses, station, and/or network are biased may self-censor, thus producing the view from nowhere in an otherwise honest journalist who wants to protect his employment.
Special access to sources
Politicians or other sources who benefit from view-from-nowhere journalism grant more access to the journalists who promote a view from nowhere, thus crowding out other journalists, leading to a disinformed public, and bad public policy that harms everyone. This feedback loop creates a self-reinforcing cycle of bad journalism in politics and bad politicians in office.
"He said, she said" pattern
The hallmark pattern of view-from-nowhere journalism takes the form of "A said X; B said Y," where X and Y are mutually exclusive claims and Y is absurd, and then the story ends without comment. The reporter fails to reject Y or conduct further investigations to illuminate what reasonable observers in the audience would conclude if they were able to do the reporting themselves.
Thus view-from-nowhere journalists are often accused of acting like stenographers instead of journalists, merely repeating whatever statements are told to them, including obvious lies from well-known liars with obvious conflicts of interests. The lies and liars may be presented to the audience as though they possess credibility equal to all other honest claims made by other people.
Anger from all sides is not an indicator of balance, fairness or truth
View-from-nowhere journalism sources often try defend themselves by claiming, "Both sides are angry at us, therefore our reporting is fair, balanced, and correct". This is illogical, as equiposition of angered parties has no bearing upon truth or falseness of a report, "fairness", or objective "balance", especially when the balance of truth is 100 percent lopsided to only one party.
A good reporter avoids view from nowhere, then suffers accusations of "bias"
The aggrieved parties whose claims are wrong often accuse "bias" against the reporter who stakes out the truthful position. Naïve audience members will confuse "perspective" with "bias", especially when the truth is unwelcome to them. Every human must have a perspective. A good journalist will be aware of their own perspective and disclose it to the audience if it is relevant, and take steps to accommodate their own known blind spots. But an accusation of bias implies that the reporter has blindly or deliberately altered the story to change the conclusion an audience should draw from a report.
Admitting that all reporters must have some biases does not make neutrality for all stories into the objective, honest framing for all stories. Neutrality is only reasonable for situations where the facts support that middle-of-the-road position. A good journalist will address their own preconceived bias at the beginning of the story. Not every journalist's bias is so great or relevant to every story that it alters the reporting in a meaningful way that would lead the audience to wrong conceptions of the topic.
Educating the public to be vigilant for this condition in news stories protects some of them from its negative effects.
News sources can protect their entire audience from this effect if all reporters stories are reviewed by editors who use a quality checklist for all stories which includes an assessment of the false neutrality bias of view-from-nowhere reporting.
A good journalist takes steps to ensure their perspective doesn't become biased, altering the facts or analysis of the meaning of the story, and shares this information about their bias-fighting behavior on the story with the audience. The audience can then decide for themselves if enough was done to mitigate bias, if it was relevant at all.
- Maras, Steven (2013). "The view from nowhere". Objectivity in journalism. Key concepts in journalism. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press. pp. 77–81. ISBN 9780745647357. OCLC 823679115.
- Isquith, Elias (12 April 2014). "Objectively bad: Ezra Klein, Nate Silver, Jonathan Chait and return of the 'view from nowhere'". Salon. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
- Rosen, Jay (26 August 2011). "Why political coverage is broken". pressthink.org. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
- Rosen, Jay (15 September 2011). "We have no idea who's right: criticizing 'he said, she said' journalism at NPR". pressthink.org. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
- Greenwald, Glenn (13 January 2012). "Arthur Brisbane and selective stenography". Salon. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
- Rosen, Jay (4 June 2004). "He said, she said, we said". pressthink.org. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
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- Brendan, James (9 June 2016). "Death to the 'view from nowhere': how Donald Trump broke the media's brain". ibtimes.com. International Business Times. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
- Carlson, Matt (2017). Journalistic authority: legitimating news in the digital era. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231174442. OCLC 972089995.
- Friedersdorf, Conor (30 October 2011). "Stop forcing journalists to conceal their views from the public: the case against the view from nowhere". theatlantic.com. The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
- Friedersdorf, Conor (12 January 2012). "So whaddaya think: should we put truthtelling back up there at number one?". pressthink.org. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
- Greenwald, Glenn (12 October 2012). "Martha Raddatz and the faux objectivity of journalists: establishment journalists are creatures of a highly ideological world and often cause ideology to masquerade as neutral fact". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
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- Rosen, Jay (14 June 2010). "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right: on the actual ideology of the American press". pressthink.org. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
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