Being impartial means not being prejudiced towards or against any particular side, and to be fair and balanced. This is a tough one. All journalists have their own views, and yet, to deliver comprehensive and authoritative coverage of news and current affairs they must rise above their own personal perspective. Only by reflecting the diversity of opinion fairly and accurately can we hope to offer a true picture of what is really happening.
This is particularly true with controversial issues. Here, particularly, journalists need to be accurate and impartial and keep their own opinions firmly under wraps. Impartiality means:
-providing a balance of issues and views
-reflecting a wide range of opinion
-exploring conflicting views
-ensuring no significant strand of thought is under represented.
In terms of editorial freedom, journalists should be free to:
-cover any subject if there are good editorial reasons for doing so
-report on a specific aspect of an issue
-provide an opportunity for a single view to be expressed
-avoid bias or an imbalance of views
-cover stories that might offend part of the audience
-be fair with contributors and let them respond to our questions.
However, in doing so we need to be prepared to offer a right of reply. In seeking impartiality, we must never assume that academics, journalists and other contributors brought in to provide balance and comment are themselves impartial.
Impartiality must be adequate and appropriate. It is not necessary to represent every argument on every occasion or to offer an equal division of time for each view. Healthy editorial discussions with senior colleagues will help formulate this policy case by case. A journalist should not struggle alone.
Controversial subject might cover politics, religion, sexual practices, human relationships and financial dealings. In all cases, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight.
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Photo by Justin Pickard, Creative Commons Attribution License