Journalism: Objectively Lying

Objectivity is held up as the pinnacle of journalistic story-telling. But does it really work in practice?



On an ordinary day perched atop another tedious capital, a young reporter stood rocking on his heels. “I wonder what he is going to say today?” He said as he grazed the shoulder of a colleague. Without a turn of the head, she replied, “I wonder what he’s not going to say.”

As the youngest and consequently the most junior reporter in the gallery, he was accustom to short-sharp answers. He attributed the lack of empathy from his senior colleagues to a mix of whiskey, greyed hair, and bitter sentiment for a time long past. “Nothing to sweat,” he thought.

Out lurched the subject. As dull as the city he occupied. Meandering his way towards the podium as if there were no reward for his duty. The young reporter was diligent and took note, “walked out 11:07am, stood behind lectern.”

The speech was typical and not unlike the myriad of plain and ambiguous talk that litters politics. It began: “Today we are at war with the east, north, and west. We are under attack on all fronts…” The young reporter took note, briefly glancing at his colleague between sentences. She stood there indifferent to the news of war. Each sentence seemed to intensify the morose look upon her face.

The second the subject left the stage the hypnotic sound of ink striking paper gave way to a crescendo of conversation. As the photographers checked their photos, so too did the reporters compare their notes. Never shy and always curious, the younger reporter leaned in, “I noticed you didn’t take any notes. Would you like to see mine?”

Her gaze – leaving the podium for the first time since the subject had left – turned to the young reporter: “No. Thanks. Nothing of importance was said.” The young reporter was confused. The subject had just stated that we were under attack on all fronts and this, he decided, was what he would later report to the people. It was important.

He’d even thought of a clever lead, Closing in All Sides: Are We at War? Why was his senior colleague not as moved as he? “Perhaps something is clouding her judgement,” he thought, “after all, I’ve spent the least amount of time at the capital.”

In the media room reporters ran back and forth, their phones seemingly fused to their shoulders. Yet among the entropic story-tellers there she sat. Calm and reflective. The senior colleague of the young reporter seemed neither fussed nor phased. Her poise was a mystery to the young reporter.

“Have you written anything yet?” He asked. “No, nothing yet” the senior colleague replied. He’d had enough. His inquisitiveness had given way to frustration, “What do you mean? We’re at war!” The senior colleague snatched his notepad and began flicking through its pages. “Here,” she announced, “give me your pen.”

She drew a circle around the world lectern, “it’s not a lectern. It’s a podium. Important difference.” She then drew the young reporter’s attention to the opening remarks of the subject, “We are under attack on all fronts, really? Well, that would entail being attacked from the south too.” The young reporter was immediately on the defence.

“So what? What has that got to do with anything?”

“If we aren’t under attack from the south than we’re not under attack on all fronts, are we?”

“But he said…”

“But, nothing!” She said, “that’s why you should never mistake a podium for a lectern.”


About Bryce Harper 5 Articles
A journalist and writer based out of Brisbane, Australia.

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