Media and objectivity and their relation and effects towards war

Term Paper, 2013

10 Pages, Grade: 2,0

Dennis Schmidt (Author)



Objectivity in journalism and war

I. Introduction

II. 'Objectivity' in journalism and media

III. Analysis of two photographs in regards to 'Objectivity'

IV. Conclusion
The shifts of media's relation to war
I. Introduction
II. The shifts of media's relation to war and its effects illustrated by two examples
III. Conclusion

Reference List:

Objectivity in journalism and war

I. Introduction

“It’s the value of fairness which is extremely important. It’s the ethic of restraining your own biases which is also important… It’s the idea that journalism can’t be the voice of any particular party or sect.”1 This is only one of numerous definitions of the term 'objectivity' which will be the main theme of this thesis paper. The following text will deal with the concept of 'objectivity' and its relation and effects towards journalism and media. It will especially concentrate on 'objectivity' in regards to war and conflict by analyzing the link of 'objectivity' and 'subjectivity' to two photographs taken during the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008. First the thesis will present 'objectivity' as a concept in general and why it plays an important role and is often discussed in the field of journalism. Subsequently the two photographs will be introduced shortly and examined focusing on how far 'objectivity' can be transferred or not to those two contrasting photographs. The conclusion will sum up the results of this analysis.

II. 'Objectivity' in journalism and media

'Objectivity' as a concept in the profession of journalism was a widely covered theme ever since. In the 1920s a discussion emerged between those claiming that journalists had to follow the duty of their profession to report the truth objectively and those who wanted to gain as much publicity as possible by warping facts and not telling the whole truth in their stories to their audiences.2 Indeed, the perception of journalism of the latter influenced by economic goals to make profit marks a problem for journalism and its traditional understanding of its profession to be objective. Nowadays new trends in journalism provide a challenge to 'objectivity'. 'New Journalism’ as well as journalists-cum-novelist produces subjective texts with fictional elements using factual techniques. Also the 'journalism of attachment' tries to influence its audience by leading them into a certain direction of values in order to guarantee them a moral certainty. This kind of journalism focuses not so much on 'objectivity' and doing its best to inform the audience the best way possible, but to entertain them and engage them excluding or at least not emphasizing neutral and balanced reporting.3 Two ways of approaching 'objectivity' can be figured out: firstly, a “strategic ritual” which values the distinction between 'analysis' and 'facts', emphasizes the use of quotation marks, references for evidence an appropriate structure and the mention of potentials leading to conflicts. This admittedly does not lead necessarily to a complete objective reporting, but it tries at least to provide an “operational view of 'objectivity'”. Secondly, one can treat 'objectivity' as a aim which has to be reached by displaying events in a manner that does not include in any way a personal or attached perspective and does not provide any form of judging or valuing of the reported.4 So as one can see 'objectivity' is a central theme in journalism and will be elaborated further down in a more detailed way consulting two empiric example illustrating the ambiguity of the concept.

III. Analysis of two photographs in regards to 'Objectivity'

The two photographs presented in the following are both taken from the Russo-Georgian War lasting from 8. until 12. August of 2008. The conflict arose in South-Ossetia and Abkhazia, both areas characterized by a highly amount of diverse ethnic groups. Secessionist movements in South-Ossetia and Abkhazia supported by the Russian government claim independence from Georgia since the demise of the USSR, while Georgia demands the territory for itself. In the summer of 2008 the tension in these areas - despite the fact that Russian and Georgian peacekeeping troops are stationed there – escalated with the result that Georgia launched a military offense, but was quickly defeated by the overwhelming Russian army.5 So the point is that in fact Georgia was the aggressor in this conflict which will be important for the analysis further down.

The first photograph being portrayed is made by an unknown photographer whose picture was published in the Texarkana Gazette on the 19th of August 2008. On the black-and-white photograph one can see Russian soldiers sitting on their tank and relaxing. They do not look stressed and it does not seem as if they are going to be operating in the next time. By just watching the picture one cannot notice the circumstances and situation in which the picture was taken, one can just assume. But by reading the commentary put there by the author of the article of the newspaper the opinion of the spectator is influenced in a decisive way. The text says:”Russian soldiers travel on an armored personnel carrier Saturday after troops looted part of the Black Sea port of Poti, western Georgia.” By considering that this newspaper is American and even more significant a Texas one, it is not too difficult to figure out that the text beyond the photograph tries to give the Russian army a negative connotation and maintain the -in the Western world and especially the USA- wide-spread image of the Russian soldier as a brutal and plundering evil man. And there is the link to 'objectivity': The photographer himself was perhaps not aware that his photo was misused in such a way and tried to just portray the soldiers, but by already choosing this motive of Russian soldiers as a motive he cannot be objective because he is probably subconsciously subject to his world views, predispositions and cultural background.6

This example also shows that news can never be free of value or can display events from nobody's perspective.7 The author of the text definitely has a perspective, namely an American one. If he would be for example Russian, he might have chosen another commentary to the photo, perhaps a more positive one. The newspaper itself can also not be considered as 'objective' bearing in mind that every news organization or institution produces news according to a certain hierarchy of 'news values' which is dependent on the economic, social and political constitution of the society they are part of. They have to decide which stories, events and in general news are the most appropriate for them to cover.8 This is also what this example shows: The potential audience of the newspaper is more likely to be interested in events concerning the politics of the USA and on such events where people are involved with whom they easily can identify.9 In this case, of course, the political relations of the US and Russia play a role and Russia as the big enemy since the Cold War is still deeply rooted in the minds of large parts of the American population which the newspaper tries to support with this kind of interpretation of the image.

As a contrast to this picture an image of the Romanian photographer Cristian Movila is discussed with regards to 'objectivity'. On the black-and-white picture one can recognize a young boy, lying on a bed in a refugee-camp, holding a rifle.10 The picture is embedded in a blog, but the blogger does not say anything about the conflict from a personal opinion or tries to influence the spectator’s opinion despite the fact that he appreciates Cristian Movila's work very much. This example should demonstrate that journalists sticking to their professional standards and demands may not reach complete 'objectivity' as the profession demands, but can approach this goal of being objective and in that way avoid incorrectness or distorting the truth.11 Of course also this blogger and this photographer do not reach complete 'objectivity' because of the issues they choose to present to audiences and report on. But at least the following definition of 'objectivity' fits into both ways of presenting and reporting:” An effort of reporting the facts without developing – or at least without revealing – an opinion about them.”12 The blogger in his text does not show his opinion about the conflict or tries to interpret the picture from his individual perspective; he just is very subjective about the work of the photographer by highly recommending his audience to look for the whole work of Movila. The image itself is in the same way not subjective in so far that one cannotrecognize that the photographer tries to impose his political opinion onto the spectator by portraying this situation in a special light. He does not comment on the scene or reveals the causes which led to the situation that a young boy has to have a gun in his hand. The spectator does not know, to which of the conflicting party the boy belongs to. He might be Georgian; he might a son of a family of South-Ossetian or Abkhazian secessionists or just a boy who lost his family and home. But for Movila this is not decisive here. He simply tries to display the pervasiveness of war and conflict by showing this boy with a gun. Equally it is not really evident, why the boy has gun. Is it given by his family or did he find it? That is not the reason Movila took the photo. He wanted to make people care about the conflict and the suffering war creates in general. This is where the dilemma of war reporters with a “passion for their vocation” begins: Is it a journalist's duty to just portray events or shall they make people care about the happenings? 13 The picture of Movila could be regarded as fulfilling both. He definitely wants to make people care, but he actually does nothing else than reporting facts. The fact is here, that children have to suffer because of war and easily come into contact with guns like in the picture. Also the discussion about the separation of 'facts' and 'comments' in the traditional understanding of 'objectivity' in journalism14 is accurate here. The photographer does not comment on the picture itself which he took, but of course by going in that conflict zone and bringing material from there to audiences, he comments on the conflict simply by showing a picture like that.


1 Professor Jay Rosen, New York University, quoted in: Glaberson, William. 'Fairness, Bias and Judgement', New York Time, 12 December 1994.

2 Thussu, Daya Kishan; Freeman, Des. War and the Media.Reporting Conflict 24/7. London: Sage, 2003, p. 215.

3 Thussu. War and the Media.p. 225.

4 Thussu. War and the Media.p. 216.


6 Carruthers, Susan. The Media at War. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, p. 17.

7 Carruthers. The Media at War, p. 17.

8 Carruthers. The Media at War, p. 15.

9 Hoskins, Andrew; O'Loughlin, Ben. Media and War. The Emergence of Diffused War. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010, p. 40ff.


11 Hoskins, Media and War, p. 70f.

12 Lynch, Jake; McGoldrick, Annabel, Peace Journalism. Strud: Hawthorn, 2005, p. 203.

13 Hoskins, Media and War, p. 70.

14 Carruthers, The Media at War, p. 17.

Excerpt out of 10 pages


Media and objectivity and their relation and effects towards war
Malmö University
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
438 KB
Quote paper
Dennis Schmidt (Author), 2013, Media and objectivity and their relation and effects towards war, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Media and objectivity and their relation and effects towards war

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free