Reflections of a naïve empiricist
The Inverted Triangle of Objectivity: A Critical Response
Dr Greg McLaughlin, University of Ulster
They say that news provides us with ‘a window on the world’, reflecting rather than constructing reality, informing us but never influencing us, never shaping our understanding. Apparently, it is a naturally occurring, neutral product, emerging from the objective position of the reporter whose primary duty is to gather the ‘material facts’ - the who, what, where, how and why of the story.
Of course, the reporter is much too busy to decide which facts are more important than others. It is just as well then that the facts speak for themselves, that they have a life, an intelligence of their own. The reporter only has to carry them back with care to the newsroom, place them lovingly in the magic, inverted triangle and watch with wonder as they order themselves within it.
However, we must be ever vigilant for there are those who can’t be trusted with the facts. We must never trust the academic who will question them and theorize endlessly about them in torturous jargon. We must never trust the spin-doctor who is interested only in the facts that suit him. We must never trust the citizen journalist who will order the facts in her own way, not having access to the magic triangle.
But most importantly of all, we must never trust the artist for she will tear the facts from their sacred place and render them how she pleases. She will re-present them, re-articulate them, re-arrange them in no particular order so that they speak for someone or no one at all, stripped as they are of their self-evident, objective authority.
Then what will we do without our window on the world?