Understanding the Components of Trust: Is Objectivity Essential?

Right now, the American public trusts businesses more than they trust the government or media. Obviously, both groups are interested in rebuilding trust with the public. What’s involved in making that happen?

The Columbia Journalism Review recently hosted a panel discussion called The Objectivity Wars, which you can watch on YouTube here. The central point of discussion was the relative value of objectivity in the media – in other words, does clinging to some aspirational judgment-free standard diminish the value of the journalistic work being done? While you might not think this is relevant to your day-to-day existence as a brand manager, the larger question here applies to all organizations: are the values we’re adhering to the right ones, and does clinging to them strengthen or weaken our bond with the customer?

Ironically, perhaps, Fox News, which has at best an incredibly marginal claim on objectivity, has the largest, loyalist audience. So if the metric for success is viewership, then no, objectivity is clearly not essential for success. There are fascinating conversations being had about what the appropriate metrics are, including the inclusion of marginalized voices in national conversations and driving social change, but these two require journalism of the highest order without the pretense of objectivity.

Will rebuilding trust in the media require changing our collective understanding of the value of objectivity? I think it might. It’s a fascinating question, and I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

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