What’s the best way to surface the truth: attempted objectivity or opinionated debate?

From The Future of the News Business by Mark Andreessen:

…there is an approach to how the news is created that also prevents progress. It’s the notion that “objectivity” is the only model worth pursuing.

The practice of  gathering all sides of an issue, and keeping an editorial voice out of it is still relevant for some, but the broad journalism opportunity includes many variations of subjectivity. Pre-World War II, subjectivity was the dominant model in the news business – lots of points of view battling it out in marketplace of ideas. As with people and opinions, there were many approaches to writing or broadcasting  on the same topic.

My take is that the rise of objectivity journalism post-World War II was an artifact of the new monopoly/oligopoly structures news organizations had constructed for themselves. Introducing so-called objective news coverage was necessary to ward off antitrust allegations, and ultimately, reporters embraced it. So it stuck.

But the objective approach is only one way to tell stories and get at truth. Many stories don’t have “two sides.” Indeed, presenting an event or an issue with a point of view can have even more impact, and reach an audience otherwise left out of the conversation.

Seeking Alpha articles are frequently criticized for being biased, because they’re written by investors who take (and disclose) positions in stocks. But we’ve discovered that opinionated debate by people with skin in the game is the best mechanism for surfacing and hammering out the key issues an investor needs to know about. This was confirmed by a recent academic study which showed that Seeking Alpha articles and comments are far better than sell side research at predicting future stock prices.

One thought on “What’s the best way to surface the truth: attempted objectivity or opinionated debate?

  1. No doubt about it – the most effective path to truth is open debate between passionate, articulate, highly interested parties. That is the best we could come up with for dispensing justice, and it holds no less for other matters of debate. There is no such thing as objective journalism, and there never was. When we had limited sources, we sometimes pretended there was – and they did too. But in the new world, no reason to make believe such a thing exists anymore. The truly informed person hears from every side of an issue to form an opinion.

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