What We Can Only Achieve Is Tangential Objectivity

An old-time print journalist has defected to an online news portal.

Peter Goodman was, according to the Washington Post, the top reporter for New York Times. I don’t have a familiarity with foreign correspondents though I should because I am after all, a journalist.

In any case, Goodman was covering the national economic beat for the NY Times until recently before he defected to the news portal, Huffington Post. And his reasons? He argued that “The View From Nowhere” makes it difficult for proper reporting. On the other side of the lake, the term for objectivity is “The View From Nowhere” (1).

“For me it’s a chance to write with a point of view,” Goodman says in an interview. “It’s sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what’s going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting.”

Goodman, who spent a decade at The Washington Post before his three years at the Times, says he will still rely on facts and not engage in “ranting.” And while he was happy at the newspaper, he says, he found he was engaged in “almost a process of laundering my own views, through the tried-and-true technique of dinging someone at some think tank to say what you want to tell the reader.” (emphasis mine)

Media Notes“, Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post,

I posed the question to someone before. Why does reporting sometimes feel like as if I am laundering my own views through finding the appropriate sources to say what I want to say to the reader.

I am lucky because most of the time, I review cars. And reviews are subjective. If anyone tells you otherwise, don’t believe them.

Objectivity is impossible.The notion of Objectivity is like a curve – one that we cannot comprehend. I think Ican only come close to Objectivity insofar as my reporting travels in a tangent to the point in question. I should aim for the best straight-line approximation of the curve but otherwise, I can never draw out the curve.

What we can only do, Jay Rosen, a professor in journalism at NYU suggested, is to provide a plurality of opinions, as many as possible, to let the readers pick a voice.

Then, my reporting becomes tangentially objective.


1) “The View From Nowhere” sounds very much like a romantic notion. Did the media critics come up with this term?


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