Just the Facts
How "Objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism
If American journalism were a religion, as it has been called, then its supreme deity would be "objectivity." The high priests of the profession worship the concept, while the iconoclasts of advocacy journalism, new journalism, and cyberjournalism consider objectivity a golden calf. Meanwhile, a groundswell of tabloids and talk shows and the increasing infringement of market concerns make a renewed discussion of the validity, possibility, and aim of objectivity a crucial pursuit.
Despite its position as the orbital sun of journalistic ethics, objectivity—until now—has had no historian. David T. Z. Mindich reaches back to the nineteenth century to recover the lost history and meaning of this central tenet of American journalism. His book draws on high profile cases, showing the degree to which journalism and its evolving commitment to objectivity altered–and in some cases limited—the public's understanding of events and issues. Mindich devotes each chapter to a particular component of this ethic–detachment, nonpartisanship, the inverted pyramid style, facticity, and balance. Through this combination of history and cultural criticism, Mindich provides a profound meditation on the structure, promise, and limits of objectivity in the age of cybermedia.
"Refreshing, imaginative and thoughtful, David Mindich here reveals intriguing pictures of America's past as he probes terrain generally obscured beneath unquestioned generalizations. He takes readers on a guided tour of nineteenth-century American culture and journalism as he explores changes in print news structure and presentation through a focus on reportage of major events and ideas across nearly seven decades.”
—Hazel Dicken-Garcia, Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota
"Few issues are as central to our understanding of journalism as the debate over objectivity. In this original and engaging book, David Mindich extends our understanding of it in many directions."
—Mitchell Stephens, author of A History of News
"Taking a fresh, panoramic view of objectivity, David Mindich improves our understanding of a key journalistic concept. This perceptive book offers both intriguing stories and a helpful historical framework for current debates on press performance."
—Jeffery Smith, University of Iowa
"There is a growing unhappiness about the direction of news coverage. Readers and viewers want 'objectivity' back. The first step toward doing that is to understand where 'objective' journalism came from in the first place. Just the Facts is a good place to begin."
—Jonathan Alter, The Washington Monthly
"Superb. . . . Mindich links history to contemporary practice by examining the current debate about objectivity through his 100-year-old lens."
—Steve Weinberg, The Christian Science Monitor
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