Decisions On Words

Perceptions of the world vary from person to person.

The way one perceives the world creates one’s subjective reality.

Every day we constantly receive information about the world in many different ways and gradually we form our own subjective reality.

For instance, in modern societies, human beings view the world by watching the news on TV. Comfortably sitting on the couch at home, with a beer in one hand and a bowl of chips in the other, we open our eyes, staring at the little person standing inside the flat screen telling us what is happening on the other side of the world.

cat_watching_news

While our stomachs are being stuffed with beer and chips, our minds are being stuffed with information about the world.

As audience, we expect news reporters to be objective and without bias because the words the reporter utters, combined with the images showing on the screen before us, would affect the way we perceive the world.

In order to reach such objectivity, reporters are expected to restrain their subjective views of the world and to write these hard news stories using a language that is neutral, however, it is always easier said than done – objective journalistic writing cannot be easily achieved as easily as one may think.

To make it simple, basically, this is what we are asking for:
A subjective individual suppressing his/her feelings and prejudices while using an objective language to describe an event which is to be perceived by some other subjective individuals.

Writing a news report is about decision-making. Decisions on choice of words, decisions on acceptance or rejection of information, decisions on the order of words and information being presented.

When we see a panda in the zoo, we can easily point at it and say “This is a panda.”

panda_baby

But, often things aren’t as black and white as a panda…

Imagine when you see an image of a man from a crowd is being confronted by a policeman…and his head was injured…

some reporters might report the incident in active voice that “…a policeman attacked a man in head during a demonstration”,

police

while some other might report it in passive voice that “…during a demonstration a man was attacked by the police”…

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Some might refer the event as a demonstration…or a riot…perhaps a peaceful protest…a march or a revolt…or…?

Some might refer that person as just a man…or a rebel…a protester…perhaps a terrorist…a freedom fighter…or a…?

Some might say the policeman attack the man on purpose…while some might say the incident was out of self-defense…or perhaps some might even say it is purely an accident?

Okay…did the policeman really hit the man or was it a bang, a strike, a snap, a slam…or perhaps merely a touch?

Would some reporters perhaps think that the whole event is too trivial and no detailed descriptions is needed, while some other give a lengthy report on the incident?

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It is all about decision-making.

A one minute report requires a series of decisions on words.

It is not easy to decide what words best describe the event and how to use these words to present the news story.

These decisions are often based on and influenced by the journalist’s subjective reality to a certain extent.

Therefore, in my opinion, I think that news story cannot be presented with absolute objectivity.

Expecting news reporting to have such objectivity is rather in vain, one should only hope that the reporter would carefully make a good selection of words which could have the revelation of their subjective reality reduced to minimum.

Words are powerful and scary tool. They are not only for the purpose of communication, but can also be used to shape the minds.

News reporters perhaps do not often make big decisions, but their little decisions on words can have unnoticed impacts on many minds.

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