“Transparency is the new objectivity”

14 08 2009

One of the most intriguing ideas about the digital revolution in journalism is David Weinberger’s claim that

Objectivity is a trust mechanism you rely on when your medium can’t do links. Now our medium can.

Objectivity has always been *the* golden standard for traditional journalism (print, radio, television). Newsroom ethnographers à la Gaye Tuchman argued in the 1970s that journalists rely on notions of objectivity to ward off criticism about the quality and reliability of their work. More recently, media anthropologist Mark Peterson has argued that objectivity is an operational concept that allows journalists to “see things” so they can produce factual, authenticated, balanced and impartial accounts of events in the world.

Now, Weinberger correctly observes that in an era of link economies:

What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position.

This, the ability to “see through” the author’s claims, values and sources, is what Weinberger means by transparency. It literally says to the reader: this is what I know and here is why, what do you think? Transparency is the way to establish authority in the link age. It is also is the way for journalists to add value to online news.

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