Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Object of Objectivity

A while back, someone with the screen name Fair & Balanced queried me in the comments section of this post:

Hello Mack Harrision. I would like to ask you one simple question? Are you objective?
SHORT ANSWER: No.

MEDIUM ANSWER: I call bullshit when I see it, and if that makes me unobjective in some people's eyes, then so be it.

LONG ANSWER: When I was opinion editor at The Monitor (and in my years as a reporter before that), whenever readers agreed with what I wrote, then according to them I was objective and fair. Whenever they didn't agree with what I wrote, I was horribly, horribly biased.

In other words, if you like what I have to say, you won't complain about lack of objectivity. On the other hand, if you hate what I'm telling you, it means I must have some sort of slant against your beliefs.

So if I slaughter someone's sacred cow, it must be because I'm not objective -- not because their beloved institution or individual screwed up.

LAWYER ANSWER: My dictionary (Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary, 1984) defines the word "objective" (adj.) as "Uninfluenced by emotion, surmise or personal opinion."

Since the whole point of this blog is for me to rant about "the political idiocy" taking place in the Rio Grande Valley, of course it's influenced by my emotions (I do some of my best writing when I'm pissed off), conjectures (it's easy to put two and two together and make an educated guess about what's going on) and opinions (supplemented by my education and experience). So no, I'm not objective according to that definition.

But.

The dictionary lists another definition for objectivity as "Based on observable phenomena (an objective forecast)." I try to base my posts on facts, whether obtained from the media, other sources on the Internet or my own personal knowledge. However, I also have more than a dozen years experience as a journalist, as well as my time in South Texas and my education and other life experience (including somewhat obscure pop culture references) upon which to draw. So I take what I see and factor all this other stuff into the observation to come up with something (hopefully) relevant.

Just like the weatherman applies his knowledge, observations and experience to make a report, I use what's already in my head to offer a new take on what's going on in the world (after all, a forecast is just the meteorologist's opinion on what the weather holds). I try to add to the conversation, not just parrot what everyone else is saying.

So if you want to apply the second definition of "objective," then yes, I am objective. If that's stretching it a little too far, then see my short answer above.

8 Comments:

Blogger pugsley dibrute said...

Mack, what happened is that you pissed off a crook , an apologist for the other crooks, or for the the Filomensa crowd, the Leo crooks, or all the others , who hope and pray for ignorance from journalists! Who pray their scams don't get undue publicity! Thats all!

6:56 AM  
Blogger Hector said...

Mack,
good post.
A lot of people out there seem to cling to the "objectivity" card like their lives depended on it.
The problem with being an "objective" blogger, (objective in the traditional journalistic sense) is that it defeats the overall purpose of what political blogs are trying to accomplish in the first place. By taking a subjective stance, we can see things for what they really are. In essence, the community will no longer tolerate things like spending thousands or millions of dollars on a historic hotel, or renovations to a golf course. On paper, things like this could easily pass for items that will enrich the lives of everyone in the community. Objectively, yes, okay, I'll bite.
But subjectively, one can take a step back and wonder how the hell politicians think this crap up in the first place. And why the hell do we keep buying into it?
Some people will dismiss your credibility over not taking an objective stance, but so what? There are a lot of readers out there who look for the truth, or at the very least a perspective that rings, "Damn it, I feel exactly the same way, I'm glad somebody said it."
Keep up the good work, Mack.
H.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Truth Be Told said...

Here is the deal Mack. I think your intentions are good and you are at least professional in your comments (can't say the same for Mr. Pugsley), and that you do try to be objective. We are all guilty of letting emotions get in the way but we should all strive to avoid that kind of emotional interference. I believe that bloggers should truly be objective as we have the power to influence many people and so should wield that power responsibly. When a politician screws up, we should post about it and do so on correct facts. If not, then how we are any better than the politicians who will twist words to get what they want from the people. I believe the reason you were called out on this fact was because your three points of fact for the La Joya ISD's Superintendent suspension were all incorrect. As I stated before, Mrs. Leo never publicly said that she was pulled for political motives, although we now know she was (“It’s political. I’m not going to say it’s not,”-Fito Salinas). I have already mentioned why your other two points were also incorrect as well on your earlier posts. I may not be completely your fault, as you do live in San Antonio and may not personally see the things I get to see (attend a board meeting and you’ll figure it out real quick). This would leave you to post some incorrect statements and thus garner the question on your objectivity. Mrs. Leo is a well respected educator and does not deserve to be dragged through the mud with unsubstantiated comments. Her husband is a politician and thus has to accept the fact that he will be attacked like this. But dragging his wife into this is going too far. It’s like the Mafia: when they want to get to you, they attack your family first. Let’s not go down to that level for there is no honor in that.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Shaine Mata said...

I think it's better to be out in the open subjective than claim to be objective knowing full well that you are biased. Mack is at least honestly open about his subjectivity. Anyone claiming to be objective about government, religion, or raising kids is full of it.

Keep up the good work, Mack.

7:49 PM  
Blogger IAlmaguer said...

Mack,

Great response. Keep up the good work. Let's see what comes out of this investigation.

Ignacio Almaguer

4:06 PM  
Blogger Truth Be Told said...

True to a certain extent Mr. Mata. As I said, we should strive for objectivity knowing full well that we will sometimes stray from that path along the way. Being openly subjective is a good start in realizing the errors of your ways, but it does not mean it is correct. Does a criminal receive such praise (not in a any way referring to Mack as a criminal here-for those who try to read between the lines) when he/she admits to their wrongdoing. It is great that they did it, but it does not take away from the fact that they did do it. I can honestly claim to be objective as it is something I always strive for. I will admit I am not perfect and I sometimes stray from that path. That is why when I take a certain stance on an issue I try to leave out emotions and just provide factual information instead. This is something I have practiced for a while and thus I have been able to do it more and more without letting emotions cloud myself. While I have already admitted to making mistakes myself sometimes, the more I practice this process, the less mistakes I make. When you catch me making this mistake, let me know, because I will gladly accept the fact and try and learn from it.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Fair & Balanced said...

Hello Mack Harrison. I liked the all of your answers to my question. Thank you. I could tell you put some serious intellectual thought into your reply. Ah, but how inner struggles are a bitch...but in the end your journalistic side will prevail.

Now with that out of the way. I have another question.

Drawing on your experience as a journalist, do you really think that The Paper of South Texas bases its stories on credible facts? Yes or No. You may elaborate.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Mibble said...

I have known Mack for too many years. He is not biased he is not opinionated - he hates everyone and everything - equally!

*grin*

In all honesty when Mack feels strongly about an issue he is apt to make his observations well known, and if they differ from someone else's perspective - so be it. They are entitled to their opinion/bias as much as the next person.

It's just a hoot reading Mack's prose and all the commentary it spurs.

Skreeetle

8:27 PM  

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