Document Type


Publication Date

March 2013


One of the inchoate yet defining features of journalism in the twenty-first century has been the profession’s unannounced but nonetheless consequential repudiation of the time-honored journalistic ethos of ‘‘objectivity.’’ In this paper, I argue that the gradual renunciation of the ideals of objectivity in contemporary journalistic practice, especially in the United States which birthed the concept, is both a return to journalism’s roots and a back-handed, if profit-inspired, embrace of certain hallmarks of ‘‘alternative journalism,’’ which emerged as a counterfoil to nineteenth-century notions of ‘‘objective journalism.’’ I demonstrate my thesis by historicizing ‘‘objective journalism’’ and linking its emergence to multiple impulses: industrial capitalism’s desire to capture as many eyeballs to consumer goods as possible using the instrumentality of the mass media; the seduction of nineteenth-century positivism, which conduced to the uncritical valorization of epistemic precision, measurability, the ‘‘scientific method,’’ detachment, and other manifestations of naıve empiricism; and the turn-of-of-century delinking of political parties from newspaper business. I also argue that the progressive abandonment of the tenets of ‘‘objective journalism’’ by the legacy media is an artful hegemonic containment of alternative journalism’s age-old ideals and singularities. This, I point out, is actuated by the imperatives of survival in an increasingly uncertain and fragmented media market, made even more so by the unexampled discursive democracy and diversity that the Internet has enabled, which has contributed to the flourishing of citizen and alternative journalism.

Journal Title

Review of Communication





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Communication Commons