What's the objective?
Errol Morris has a brilliant piece on the power of the image and the art of manipulation at his New York Times blog.
A thought occurred to me while reading the article that has nothing to do with photography, and it has to do with the role journalism plays in creating a common language by which society can on some level agree that "this is so" and "this is not so." Apply that, in turn, to a political campaign or an international crisis and you can see there is a lot of work that needs to be done if we want to maintain an institution that can credibly - if not always perfectly - call a deception a deception.
In our time we have come to increasingly distrust the notion of objectivity. Subjective analysis has often brought us more satisfaction and, self-reflexively, given us reason to think "objectivity" is merely a veil of authenticity used to disguise the subjective analysis of others underneath. That and the decentralization of information brought by the Internet has us experimenting with subjectivity and trying to discover whether a higher truth can be surmised through subjective analysis than ever could if objectivity was the goal.
Subjectivity is empowering - we can choose for ourselves, we can decide without the instruction of some institution. Also, the architecture of the Internet eliminates a hierarchy in information that served to bolster the claim of objectivity. A newspaper is a rare thing, carefully put together with a mass of resources and talent unavailable to all but a tiny few media companies. Who else but the New York Times could bring you all the news fit to print? The Internet puts all information on level ground. The front page of the New York Times appears on the same screen as this website and countless others. The visual cues are similar and the functionality of the page the same. What then do we rely on to know which bits of information are more trustworthy than others save through subjective analysis? (Brand might provide some weight, but that too slips into subjectivity given the number of brands competing for our attention.)
All of which means we should be that much more mindful of the risks that come with blurring the lines between news and propaganda. Those institutions that want your money and your allegiance would like for us to see news and propaganda as two sides to the same coin. The next question for news organizations then is not how to reinvent business models, it's how to define places online where deception is exposed and where society can come to find out whether "this is so" or "this is not so." Trying to be as subjective as everyone else is to disappear.