Week 9: Lewis Raven Wallace on “Journalistic Objectivity” and your OpEd Assignment. Post Due: Wed., Nov. 3rd


Save the date: Tuesday 11/16 1-2pm “SoHo Memory Project”

A discussion on ZOOM of the award-winning SoHo Memory Project documentary with City Tech Prof. Josh Kapusinski (COMD, Moving Pixels Club), Jonathan Baez (City Tech alum and cinematographer), and Or Szyflingier (alum and director).

I am asking that you all attend the above event (it will be taped if your schedule won’t allow for this). I will be tying in the Documentary Discussion to your own final project proposals (Assignment #3)


Thanks for your strong opinions on the real (or perhaps overblown) dangers of social media giant Facebook and your recognition that we need more courageous Francis Haugens and Maria Ressas in the world to call out those that manipulate and falsify information (or ignore damaging consequences) in their quest for power and profit.  Who knew that Facebook was a 3 trillion dollar company and had 2.3 billion world-wide users (64 percent of everyone that uses the internet)?  It’s quite a force in the world, and one we certainly need to keep our eyes on.

While clearly a danger in so many ways, as Darnell points out, social media is also very helpful in that “it allows people to spread their opinions.”  Given the rise of big media and social media, your opinions–and a heightened critical media literacy–matter now more than ever.

For this week, I ask you to read the views of another important journalist and to hear more of what’s on your mind, specifically, in an Op-Ed that you write on an issue that matters greatly to you.

The OpEd, which stands for “opposite the editorial page,” is a short piece of writing typically published by a newspaper, which expresses the opinion of an author not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board. This genre was invented by the New York Times in 1970 and has been a mainstay of most newspapers ever since.   Interestingly, just this year, the Times announced it would now call opinion pieces “Guest Essays” (largely due to the fact that papers are now mostly on-line – i.e. not “opposite” another piece of writing on paper).

The New York Times also now has a Video Op Ed section, which we’ll discuss further next week.

The separation of opinion from the news is also part of the “professionalization” of the news that the New York Times also helped develop.  Since the early 1900s, professional reporters have been asked to be “neutral” and “unbiased” when covering stories.  Today, many in the mainstream media (PBS, NBC News, CNN, etc.) prize neutrality over virtually all other values. Being “neutral” means giving equal credence, focus, and criticism for all sides of an argument, without passing judgment as to the validity of the argument. The “neutral” reporter simply reports what the different sides of a debate assert but does not take a position.  

In 2019, Lewis Raven Wallace (in his book The View From Somewhere ) was one of the first reporters to criticize what he calls “the myth of journalistic objectivity.” To learn why, read his Op-Ed â€śObjectivity is Dead, and I’m Okay With It”

POST ASSIGNMENT: In a paragraph, respond to one point Wallace makes in his writing that you found interesting and important. Alternately, give a current example that speaks to the danger of journalists being too neutral or a story that isn’t being covered but should be. Post due: Wed., Nov. 3

OpEd Assignment: Over the next two weeks, I also want you to work on your own OpEd, focusing on an issue that matters to you greatly.  If you like, you can draw from an earlier post or simply take a position on an issue currently in the news. Here are directions for the assignment: OpEdAssignment. Please upload this assignment HERE. Please come to office hours (Mondays 4-5) if you wish to discuss your topic with me (or email me at mnoonan@citytech.cuny.edu)


  1. Melissa Dos Santos

    The loss of objectivity in the field of journalism deprives the citizen who wants to be informed. A news story is worthy of what, when, why, and how’s without the taint of ideology. The phenomena of ideological, partisan, and tribalistic journalism that Wallace seems to promote is not new and, in my view, dangerous. Those who did raise their voices to decry ideological coloring was labeled, in essence, foreign agent working on behalf of the enemy. Sound familiar? It should if we look back in history, particularly in the 1940s-1950s, hello Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee would recognize this. I can’t entirely agree with Wallace’s premise of being ok with the lack of objectivity in journalism. The fact that this piece was written right after the 2016 elections raises my skepticism. The loss of objectivity taints fact-based news. The year 2016, for example, was an onslaught of partisan, ideological journalism across all angles and shades within the political spectrum in news media, which in turn was a precipice of the downward trend of loss of trust in media. The idea that speaking truth to power is “male-centric and whitewashed falsehood of objectivity” is nonsensical post-structuralist falsehood. Objectivity does not negate x,y,z communities’ voices or struggles – it opens dialogue across the spectrum.

    • Mark Noonan

      Very astute commentary on what we lose when journalists give up the professional code of “objectivity.” I think it would be interesting for you to read a chapter from Lewis Wallace’s book “The View From Somewhere” in which he gives wonderful examples of important journalists “speaking out” when others did not. One such journalist that Lewis discusses was Ida B. Wells who was the first to call attention to extensive lynchings in the South in the 1890s. For her outspokenness she was driven out of her southern hometown and came to practice in NYC.

  2. Anna Lin

    Lewis Raven Wallace is a independent journalist. I enjoy reading “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it” he had a strong beginning that catches my attention to continue reading. “Thoughts on objectivity in this political moment” from Lewis Raven Wallace, I think he is really brave to let everyone know he thoughts. As a journalist it is dangerous in a way for being too honest in your writing. It is okay to open up writing your idea/ thoughts, most importantly ask yourself can you handle all the negative feedback it not always positive feedback.

    • Judley L

      Hi Anna
      I agree with you Lewis was very brave and forthcoming in his paper. I think you have to be in order to be a journalist especially when you have to expose the government or tell the raw truth. He was especially able to prove his point by relating it back to his experiences as being apart of the LGBTQ community and how its impossible to remain neutral when your beliefs are what motivate you and give you purpose to continue writing.

      • Mark Noonan

        Judley, It’s great that you bring up Wallace’s important work supporting the LGBTQ community. I particularly liked your concluding line about how impossible “it is to remain neutral when your beliefs are what motivate you and give you purpose to continue writing.”

    • Mark Noonan

      Anna, Excellent points. I really like your emphasis on the “bravery” that’s absolutely required to be an honest working journalist these days (across the globe).

  3. Marina Rodrigues

    In my opinion it’s hard for a journalist to have a neutro view and a neutro way to express themselves, maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be theoretically but not in practical terms. Journalists are also human beings and they have emotions, and personal opinions. Their job is to pass not only what is actually happening or seeing but also the feeling that can provoque. Therefore sometimes, or mostly of the time, the journalist gets too involved in a way to defend the cause and try to find a solution for the reported problem.
    To be honest, in my opinion it’s very difficult to find an example of neutralism from a journalist. Nowadays all of them are taking their side and expressing their opinion, which also can and it is generating a lot of conflicts….. But on the other hand, that also might help people see the problem with their own “eyes” and get their own conclusions. Because sometimes without the emotion exposed in each news story, maybe the readers wouldn’t give the attention needed to the subject.

    • Mark Noonan

      You handle the two sides of journalistic “objectivity” extremely well Marina. We need to carefully consider the complicated nature of this issue , as you clarify.

  4. Judley L

    “Instead, we should own the fact that to tell the stories and promote the voices of marginalized and targeted people is not a neutral stance from the sidelines, but an important front in a lively battle against the narrow-mindedness, tyranny, and institutional oppression that puts all of our freedoms at risk.”

    Lewis Wallace brings out many important points in his writing. I agree with him, journalism cannot be objective. We live in a society where everything is not black and white. In order for a journalist to discuss a topic or reveal a truth or narrative they must have a driving force. Yes facts are important and so is holding people accountable. However people form opinions and hold beliefs and values that translate into their work as journalists and how they choose to talk about the realities we face today.

    “To call a politician on a lie is our job; to bring stories of the oppressed to life is our job; to represent a cross-section of our communities is our job; to tell the truth in the face of “alternative facts” and routine obscuring is our job; and we can do all that without promoting the […] falsehood of objectivity.”

    For example when we look at the dire situation of patrol centers and how Haitian migrants are being whipped and mistreated. Such incidents have startlings similarities to slavery. Even if someone wants to remain objective, how can you? Especially when it’s clearly dehumanizing treatment. This is definitely a human rights issue. If a journalist remains objective and just states the facts statistics about the migrant without discussing why this situation is wrong and comparing it to the history of Slavery in the South and how the goverment and border patrol are addressing this issue is a reflection of the black experience in the USA then what is the point of bringing it to light in the first place? Being objective and just stating facts does not reflect the human experience and perspectives that are associated with the realities we face in society today.

    • Mark Noonan

      Very impressive, thoughtful reply Judley. The example you give about Haitians being rounded up like enslaved persons on our on Mexican border is so apt; calling truth to power, corruption, and general evil certainly remains a central role of journalism today.

  5. Jailyn Lavado

    The stance Wallace states journalist should fight back was very interesting as it aligns with the idea that journalism should speak on current events. It also goes back to stating how these reporters act as watchdogs! Sometimes I stumble upon articles that add no value to current topics and its mind boggling that the topic was chosen over something like climate change. I believe bringing attention to events is important because it keeps people well-informed.
    Being neutral can cause problems rather than stating a side as it can mean the journalist is indecisive and can lead the reader to believe there isn’t a immediate need to act upon an event.

    • Mark Noonan

      Excellent point Jailyn about what even constitutes “news” these days when we are all contending with so many important issues today.

  6. sergio tello

    In my opinion Wallace states a lot of important points in which I share a similar point of view. To me when Wallace says that basically promoting the voices of targeted people is not a neutral stance from the sidelines. That to me stood out because journalism should not be something that is unbiased, everyone has their own opinions and part of journalism is to express what a certain topic invokes in you. Whether they choose to be ” neutral” it comes out really hard to project that because as humans we naturally tend to lean towards one side. Not only does he state this but it also ties in to also idea that journalist should be focused on current events that might have more significance. For example there have been multiple times that during an election there is a lot of current events happening for example recently the Afghanistan issue, in my personal opinion I feel like they were trying to focus more on the political side of the story than focusing on all the other people suffering and the emotions that it caused globally. When a journalist decides to be neutral it can be interpreted as the writer having no feelings or not caring about the subject they write about, but if they do lean towards a side it can also be a lost situation because the other side who doesn’t see it this way will deminish the writers opinion and turn it down. Its always a tough situation to be in a journalist position.

    • Mark Noonan

      Sergio, This is a truly subtle, nuanced, and smart discussion of how to balance a reporter’s “feelings” with his/her need to be objective. Your example about the mostly “political” coverage of Afghanistan (amidst so much suffering) is particularly apt.

  7. Sean Suarez

    According to the article “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it” written by Lewis Wallace, it discusses the difficulty and the impossibility of staying neutral. The author identifies themselves as a transgender individual with their own views and opinions. In the book “The View From Somewhere” by Lewis Wallace it discusses what they experienced after publishing one of their articles. In the book it states how Lewis Wallace was fired for publishing an article that the higher ups did not agree with.

    An interesting point that Lewis Wallace made was that journalism cannot be neutral. As a journalist staying neutral is impossible. Lewis Wallace later discusses an occurrence where an 18 year old was shot dead by the police. The news coverage sparked protests and fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. I find it personally sad that people are killed at the hands of individuals that took an oath to protect us.

    One example that shows why staying neutral is impossible can be the stance on defunding the police. Some agree with defunding the police due to the abuse they or someone they love experienced, or the injustices they might have faced. Others do not agree with it due to fear of crime and chaos unfolding.

    I would like to do my OpEd assignment on recent news coverage involving President Biden on his stance on Student Loans. Will he forgive them or not?

    • Mark Noonan

      I’m impressed with your discussion here Sean of both Wallace’s article and book. Your example on the impossibility of staying on the sidelines with the question of “Defunding the Police” is an excellent.

      Your OpEd topic is a fantastic one. Questions to consider: Who’s for it? Who’s against? What is the average student debt? What is its effects on students? What’s the likelihood of passing “forgiveness” ? Where do things stand right now (was it included in the latest bill??

  8. Chala

    The idea that journalists should be able to speak on what they believe is right is very important . When a journalist does not speak on current events that are important and inform readers on information that does not inform readers . Readers want to learn once they read. I am very big on picking a side. When people are neutral that makes others think that the person is not sure of which side to trust. When trust is questioned that changes the viewer’s mind. Trust is very important in everything that is done. Trust is a must in order to succeed . A neutral person will be looked at as unloyal. If a journalist can be neutral in a current event that writer will be viewed as not passionate about the event. Passion is very important being two sided is being two faced and not trustworthy .Picking a side shows that you believe in what is said and is confident in the side you are on.

    • Mark Noonan

      I wholeheartedly agree with you, Chala, that journalists need to express their “passion” (true feelings) much more than they currently do. Great point.

  9. Mark Noonan

    Eric Ayala

    I deeply appreciate Lewis Wallace’s authentic and unfiltered article about his (don’t know his preferred pronouns) personal opinions on the current status of journalism. I have always been kind of a free thinker, and whenever an idea comes to mind I always thought it was a good idea to express that idea with others and engage in open dialogue about it. However, I feel like this type of engagement is dying so it was refreshing to hear someone freely speak their mind no matter how radical or polarized their thoughts may be. I also believe that the more radical the thought may be, the better reason to have those thoughts heard, as we can see how individuals in society think and can identify people’s stances on topics and live in a more transparent free society. You don’t always have to agree with them but their voice should never be silenced especially when they express a minority opinion. It would be very contradictory if we shut their thoughts down. In response to Wallace’s thoughts, he loses me on the very first point and the whole topic of this article to begin with. I feel news should be objective. I don’t listen to the news to hear the opinion of others. I listen to the news to find the facts of a story to then formulate an opinion of my own. But to Wallace’s defense, it is nearly impossible for an imperfect human with feelings and thoughts and agendas to remain neutral on anything. This is the reason all governments on Earth are corrupt, for humans will always carry out their personal desires and do what’s best for them in positions of power. This isn’t a reason to stop trying though. I believe objective journalism isn’t unattainable. What we should do is practice admitting when we are being biased so that we don’t impose our values on a population that has none. They should choose their side of the story after analyzing the facts of the story and that’s what we should focus on putting out there as journalists.

    • Mark Noonan

      You make two superb points here Eric. I like your argument that we should allow “radical” free speech in journalism (now more than ever). I also like your astute suggestion that we should not give up on “objective” journalism. Rather we ” should choose their side of the story after analyzing the facts of the story and that’s what we should focus on putting out there as journalists.” Superbly put.
      To post a comment, simply go to the top of this assignment. Click on “comments” ; scroll down; then type in your comment in the comment box.

  10. Mark Noonan


    In Op-Ed from Lewis Wallace, the article was very persuasive. He made a excellent point about journalism and where journalist needs to fight back. Wallace also made a good point that we need to be honest to ourselves with full integrity, loyalty, and trustworthy. It is also important that having a freedom of speech which is that you must speak up for yourselves for that things around the world needs to change politically, economically, and socially in order to have your voice to be heard. This illustrate why Wallace’s article is very persuasive.

    • Mark Noonan

      Kashi, I like how you connect our cherished “First Amendment” to actually using it — let our voices and passions be heard!

  11. Daniel

    After reading the article, I can point out that Wallace brings out a lot of interesting facts including the impossibility of being neutral. This is obviously a personal opinion on his own and something we should understand because he is expressing his feelings and thoughts on that idea. Wallace also talks about objectivity and states them in two ways. One is the practices in journalism that are focused on getting the story right, and the other is the performance in journalism of this idea of being neutral or being able to reflect on one’s opinion. Those two aspects of objectivity with the practices of being factual and being impartial or neutral are conflated into journalism and to see how writers view things to allow them to express themselves. At the end of the day, journalists are people, they are allowed to reflect their own opinions and thoughts into their own piece of writing, it’s a tough job but that’s what they try to do, to write the perfect paper, article, or story they can regardless of what happens, putting yourself in a journalist shoe you are also looking at the opinions of others that are reflecting on your piece as well as all the negative feedbacks which can lead to possible outcomes. When a journalist is being identified as neutral they don’t care about what they write, their job is to reflect their own opinions into their writing, and that’s it, they don’t focus on what others say about their writing, it goes beyond if the journalist starts arguments which can lead to people not supporting what they write and eventually readers trying to beat the writer’s side of the story. Just like I said before, being a journalist is a tough job regardless of how your viewed or view things you are dealing with constant pressure and others challenging you.

    • Mark Noonan

      Daniel, This is an excellent discussion of just how “tough” a job it is to be a journalist — today especially. The pressures are indeed enormous, and the balancing act between expressing one’s true opinion and remaining professional is trying indeed.

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