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Authors: Schultz, Tanjev
Title: Der Reporter-Blick von nirgendwo? : Journalismus in der Spannung zwischen Objektivität und Subjektivität
Online publication date: 7-May-2021
Language: german
Abstract: In der Medienforschung gibt es eine reiche Tradition der Kritik am Objektivitätsideal. Journalistische Beiträge können sich demnach nie ganz von subjektiven Einflüssen lösen. Der Aufsatz verändert die Perspektive, indem er zeigt, inwiefern subjektive Darstellungsformen ihrerseits nicht frei von Objektivitätsansprüchen sind. Als Hintergrund dient die Philosophie Thomas Nagels, der mit dem „Blick von nirgendwo“ ein prägendes Bild für die Objektivitätsidee geliefert hat. Eine eher kursorische Rezeption in der Journalismusforschung konnte dazu verleiten, dieses Bild als Inbegriff eines überzogenen oder naiven Postulats zu missdeuten. Nagels Ansatz eröffnet jedoch Möglichkeiten, Vorstellungen von Objektivität und Subjektivität zu versöhnen. Der Aufsatz skizziert Nagels Philosophie und erörtert darauf aufbauend das Verhältnis von Objektivität und Subjektivität in journalistischen Kommentaren und Reportagen. Wie zuletzt auch die Relotius-Affäre gezeigt hat, werden an Reportagen Objektivitätsansprüche gestellt, die nicht im Widerspruch zu einer subjektiven Erzählperspektive stehen, sondern mit dieser verschränkt sind. Wie der Aufsatz argumentiert, greifen subjektive und objektive Perspektiven im Journalismus grundsätzlich ineinander. So zehrt die Subjektivität der Reportage von der Objektivität, mit der sie äußere und innere Tatsachen schildert, und die Subjektivität des Kommentars von dem Anspruch der Objektivität, mit dem er u. a. moralische Urteile fällt.
In media research, there is a rich tradition of criticism of the journalistic ideal of objectivity. One conclusion is that journalism can never be completely detached from subjective influences. This paper changes the perspective by showing that explicitly subjective journalistic genres are in turn not free from claims to objectivity. Thomas Nagel’s philosophy serves as theoretical background. With his “View from nowhere”, he provided a formative picture for discussions about objectivity. A rather cursory reception of his approach in journalism research has led to a misinterpretation of Nagel’s philosophy as the epitome of an overblown or naive concept of objectivity. On the contrary, Nagel’s way of thinking offers opportunities to clarify and reconcile the ideas of objectivity and subjectivity in journalism. The paper first outlines Nagel’s philosophy and, based on this, discusses the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity in the journalistic genres editorial and reportage. It shows that the objective stance is taken by distancing oneself from a personal point of view and overcoming contingencies and idiosyncrasies of the situation. The striving for objectivity requires an at least partial transcending of the self. In leaving behind predilections and parochial preferences the objective stance is closely connected to (journalistic) truth claims. Although for mankind a view from nowhere will never be reached, Nagel reminds one of the importance to strive for objectivity. His position is compatible with a pragmatist theory of journalistic objectivity outlined by Stephen Ward who distinguishes four essential dispositions of an objective journalistic stance: dispositions towards open rationality, towards partial transcendence, towards disinterested truth, and towards intellectual integrity. When Ward argues that we begin to be disinterested when we step back, metaphorically, and put a critical distance between our beliefs and us, this is exactly what the metaphor of a view from nowhere wants to express. At the same time Nagel’s approach puts emphasis on the significance and the meaning of subjectivity as an irreducible part of the world. It helps to understand why journalism cannot and should not strive exclusively for objectivity. Journalists also have to deal with the subjective side of the world. However, the objective and the subjective stance are intertwined here. As the latest scandal surrounding fakes in articles by the German reporter Claas Relotius in the magazine Der Spiegel has shown, claims to objectivity are also made on reports that apply a rather subjective style of storytelling. The subjectivity of the reportage draws on the objectivity with which it depicts external and internal facts—and the subjectivity of editorials (commentary) draws on the objectivity with which moral judgments and appeals to the public interest and the common good are made. As media researchers have stated, in journalism there are two camps facing each other: on the one side those who think journalistic work is deeply subjective and that it is not worthwhile or possible for journalists to report objectively. And on the other side those who think objectivity is a central aim of journalistic work, at least in news reporting. The paper argues that journalism has to do justice to objective as well as to subjective claims. In this view, journalism should not abandon the ideal of objectivity. Even explicitly subjective genres do depend on it: Editorials and reportages must not ignore or bend fundamental empirical facts. This principle does not become pointless only because it is hard to find out—and never absolutely sure—what the facts are. Moreover, it is part of journalism’s aspiration not to follow the self-centeredness of certain interest groups, but rather to judge autonomously while keeping an eye on the well-being of society as a whole. In journalistic opinion pieces the objective stance does not only refer to empirical facts but also to moral reasoning that transcends egocentricity. In subjective reports (reportage) on the other hand, besides empirical facts of the external world one has to pay attention to the internal world (impressions, feelings etc.). But again, objectivity claims cannot be abandoned. Reporters have to write truthfully about their own mental states and very cautiously about the mental state of other persons. Unlike fiction writers, journalists have no access to the minds of others. The more important it is that they stick to an objective stance even in the realm of subjective reporting. Objectivity, understood in the sense of the philosopher Thomas Nagel as a gradual broadening of the perspective in the direction of a (never attainable) “view from nowhere”, plays a role in all journalistic forms of presentation, even in the decidedly subjective ones. Following the German media researcher Hans Wagner one can see the objective stance as a core element of journalism’s professionalism that makes the difference between journalism and many other forms of communication in society. The paper concludes that objectivity is still a very valuable concept in journalism research and an essential concept in journalism ethics. Not least because of bad experiences with fake scandals and fake news allegations, objectivity claims are to be taken seriously. As Thomas Nagel’s philosophy makes clear, striving for objectivity does not imply to neglect the significance of subjectivity in the world—and in journalism.
DDC: 070 Nachrichtenmedien
070 News media
Institution: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Department: FB 02 Sozialwiss., Medien u. Sport
Place: Mainz
Version: Published version
Publication type: Zeitschriftenaufsatz
License: CC-BY
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Journal: Publizistik
Pages or article number: 21
Publisher: VS Verl. für Sozialwissenschaften
Publisher place: Wiesbaden
Issue date: 2021
ISSN: 1862-2569
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Appears in collections:JGU-Publikationen

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