Objectivity, transparency, and the future of journalism

Sports Columnist for The Oregonian John Canzano, has recently taken a job at NewsRadio 750 KXL. The catch? The station is owned by Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. Can a sports journalist be objective while also employed by the owner of a team he

Traditional journalism values objectivity above almost all other principles. Many contracts prohibit journalists from becoming active in politics and some reporters actually decline to vote in order to avoid undermining their objectivity. Sports columnist John Canzano at The Oregonian, however, has recently taken a job working for Paul Allen, the owner of the Trail Blazers. Can Canzano still be objective while simultaneously being employed by Allen's NewsRadio 750 KXL?

As reported in today's Williamette Week, Canzano addressed the potential conflict of interest:
"I know what you're thinking... 'He's a sellout...,'" Canzano wrote. "KXL is owned by Paul Allen. He also owns the Trail Blazers."

But Canzano tried to stifle any concerns about a journalist getting paid by the owner of the very organization he covers with the comment that, "the Blazers must have big-time confidence in their product because I?ve been granted 100-percent editorial control, guaranteeing you that you?re going to get me as unfiltered and authentic on the radio as I am in print."

Canzano does seem determined to prove his independence. In his first print column since the deal became public, Canzano attacked "Allen, who has a reputation as a lousy businessman," for his management of the franchise.
Perhaps Canzano is being overly critical of Allen in order to to compensate for those who feel that he might become a mouthpiece for the Trail Blazers, or perhaps Allen really is a lousy businessman. It's difficult to assess, but one must wonder why someone would choose to work for a lousy businessman. While I can certainly empathize with concerns that Allen's objectivity has been decimated by the new job, I happen to feel that objectivity is a false ideal.

The Oregonian may or not agree with that premise, but they've expressed that this move establishes an "unprecedented level of transparency." Unlike objectivity which is subjective by nature, the notion of transparency is built around the principle that consumers are able to examine possible motivations and form their own opinion about why a journalist wrote what they did.

Of course, in order for transparency to be effective, a certain level of media literacy is necessary to not take what's being said as divine truth, but I think this is beginning to develop naturally and I applaud The Oregonian for attempting to pursue transparency over objectivity.

About the author

    Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.

     

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