Tag Archives: objectivity

The media has a right not to be objective



The media has a right not to be objective
By Zan Azlee

I HAVE never been a believer of the existence of totally objective journalism or the media. In theory, I’m sure it can be explained and argued. But in reality, it’s bull faeces.

In Malaysia, that is even more impossible seeing that there are so many media organisations that are owned by political parties that make up the ruling government.

Even the government media, which isn’t owned by any political party, serves the ruling party more than the people of Malaysia and to see any positive news about the Opposition is wanting.

In fact, in this country, even if a news organisation shows the perspective from another, no matter how infrequent, they will immediately be labelled as leftist. Funny, yes.

Also, just because a media organisation reports on a particular event or issue objectively from both sides doesn’t mean that they are totally objective.

It is a choice that they make when they decide because that choice alone – in deciding what to report or not to report – clearly indicates its subjectivity.

For example, one news organisation might be more inclined to reporting about a particular political party’s general assembly and ignore another even if the coverage is objective.

You see, subjectivity cannot be avoided because people are involved and when people are involved, choices are involved, no matter how significant or insignificant.

Choices have to be made because a media organisation obviously cannot cover every single thing that happens around the world. It’s just impossible.

So people who run a news organisation are the ones who will choose the agenda of the day, even if they don’t consider it an agenda. That’s known as an editorial direction.

And when a reporter covers any single event, it is a choice they make when they decide who to interview and who not to, and what is it from the interview they include in the story.

Even the choice of words and the length of an article (or video, audio, photo, etc) already indicates subjectivity, whether the reporter realises it or not.

I’m not saying that subjectivity in journalism is a bad thing. All I’m really saying is that it definitely is impossible to avoid and total objectivity doesn’t exist.

There are two ways to go about it. The news organisation could either strive as hard as possible to lessen the degree of subjectivity, or to just acknowledge it and strive to be honest.

My personal stand to it all as a journalist is to just be as honest as I can. I realise that I am only human and I have my own bias and inclinations and the one thing I will not do is lie.

It is only normal for news organisations to have editorial leanings. There will be news organisations that are friendly to the ruling party and those who are friendly to other.

They can choose whatever editorial stand they want to have because they have a right to do so, especially in a democratic country like Malaysia.

What they don’t have a right to do is to lie and report inaccurately. That is just irresponsible and unethical. Not being objective is not a crime. But being liars should be.

[This article appeared originally at English.AstroAwani.Com]

I’m not an objective journalist


I’m not an objective journalist
By Zan Azlee

Recently, people have accused me of not being objective in my journalism. In fact, I’ve had this accusation thrown to me many times over the years. But seriously, I’ve been accused of worse. Like in my college days, some people actually accused me of being a Limp Bizkit and Korn fan!

So let me set the record straight right now, here on my Astro AWANI column. I am not, I repeat NOT, an objective journalist! The only reason why I am not an objective journalist is for the fact that I do not see the need for me to be objective as a journalist.

I think that we need to get past the ‘he said this and he said that’ journalism because the public now are intelligent enough to know that full objectivity does not exist anyway.

Every soundbite or quote that a journalist chooses to include or exclude in a story is already a subjective decision. Every photograph or video footage that a journalist shoots and edits in or out of a story is already a subjective decision.

Many journalists who insist that they are objective aren’t aware that they are really just trying to portray a perception or image of objectivity.

So to me, what is important as a basic element of journalism is definitely not objectivity. What is important is honesty in the journalism field.

As it is, most of the media, whether mainstream, alternative, online, or whatever, are already biased, subjective and taking a stand in their journalism.

Most of the public realises this. And being an intelligent public, they will know how to sift through everything and make their own decisions based on the facts.

So it is essential that there be many different media outlets with many different information for the public to have access to to make their decisions.

The more choices that are available means that there are more information for the public to evaluate and base their decision-making on, hence, more well-informed decisions.

So all this information can be biased or one-sided (whichever side!), as long as there are no lies or manipulation that can deceive the public.

There is an argument that by allowing non-objective journalism to exist, there might be a risk of having biasness that would be too much of an extreme.

To this, my response is simple.

Extreme biasness in the media already exist. And if we look at it from a Malaysian point of view, the majority of this extreme biasness is so much to one side that the other side seems very neglected.

So there should be no harm in allowing for biasness in journalism to lean extremely the other way, just to bring things back in the middle.

And with that being said, I truly believe that if the media was given complete freedom (I’m also an advocate of non-censorship of the media!), a spectrum will emerge.

There will be media organisations and journalists who will gravitate to the two opposing extremes, and there will be those that take the middle ground.

And in my honest opinion, there is no sin in whichever space a journalist or media organisation chooses to be in on the spectrum.

The sin only comes when honesty in journalism is forsaken.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

The Malaysian media is biased. No… really??


Malaysian media is biased. No! Really?
By Zan Azlee

What level of sin is it if a media organisation to be biased? Is it ‘makruh’, ‘dosa kecil’, or out right ‘haram’? For the majority in Malaysia, its actually no problem at all. And if you ask me, I would have to agree with the majority. Surprise surprise! You heard me, the professional journalist, right. Biasness in the media is no problem at all.

In this day and age, people in society receive an overload of information from all kinds of sources. There’s TV, radio, print, Internet, mobile phone, iPad, Galaxy, Nexus, the kitchen sink, etc.

You’ve got most of the mainstream media that are owned by the ruling party spewing their propaganda. And you’ve got blogs, tweets and news portals that spew out the opposition’s propaganda. Tons of information is all over the traditional and new media, and biased ones at that. This is pretty obvious so don’t try to even attempt to deny it. [Click to read the full article at ASTROAWANI.COM]

Pick and choose journalism

Pick and choose journalism. That’s what I wrote about today in my column at The Malaysian Insider.

Pick and choose journalism
By Zan Azlee

MAY 20 — Last week, a Los Angeles-based radio show picked up a video news package I did for the Dutch news agency VJ Movement. The story was about being gay and Muslim in Malaysia and it was apt that This Way Out ran the story since they serve the gay community. I was obviously excited since it meant that I am now a celebrity in LA and can expect to be signing autographs in Hollywood soon. But the excitement fizzled when I actually listened to the show. My entire story was intact except for the interview with JAKIM director-general, Datuk Wan Mohamed.

I had interviewed different people with liberal and conservative view points and Datuk Wan Mohamed, of course, was of the latter. His voice may have been more conservative than the rest, but it was equally as important since I wanted to show both sides of the story for better context. This Way Out’s producers must have taken it out because it didn’t support their agenda and this brings me to my issue of the day – pick and choose journalism. (Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider)

Does constraints in journalism mean we have to editorialise?

Recently, a gay-oriented radio programme out of Los Angeles, California, called This Way Out, picked up on my video news package ‘Being Gay and Muslim in Malaysia‘, which I did for the news agency VJ Movement. Since it was a radio show, they only took the audio from my story. Of course I was delighted that I was now a celebrity in LA!

However, When I listened to the show (click here to listen to the radio show), I noticed that they had edited out the interview with JAKIM Director-General, Datuk Wan Mohamed. His voice may have been more conservative than the rest of my interviewees, but it was equally as important since I wanted to show both sides of the story and his interview definitely contextualised things better (Click here or on the image below to view my video in it’s entirety).

So I wrote an e-mail to the producers. I received a prompt reply from her, “… I actually did try recording the subtitles to mix into the piece. Unfortunately, especially since I was working alone with no male voice to use, I just couldn’t get it to sound right … it was just more confusing. I was also facing the problem that I needed to shrink the piece a bit to make it fit into our program. The time constraints made the parts with my sadly ineffective attempt to add the translation the most likely (although ultimately not the only) things to be cut — despite the fact that I realized that the government point of view provided important context. You’ve probably faced similar situations, when you have to reluctantly lose material that’s important to a story. I appreciate your understanding…”

It could have been due to constraints or it could have just been plain editorialising.

Click to view my original video in it's entirety.