News Algorithms, Photojournalism and the Assumption of Mechanical Objectivity in Journalism

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Abstract

This article interrogates the relationship between epistemic authority and journalistic technology through the perspective of mechanical objectivity—a belief in technological systems capable of rendering a particular output in a manner that overcomes the limits of human subjectivity. By treating journalistic objectivity not as a stable referent, but as a contextual one prone to shifts in practices and understandings over time, it foregrounds how changing technologies of recording, creating, and distributing news content affect how journalistic objectivity is understood. Following this perspective, two technological practices are examined: photojournalism and algorithms. The development of photojournalism led to the prizing of news images as objective representations produced by the camera to the diminishment of human judgment. Similarly, the various outputs produced by news algorithms are accompanied by an orientation toward computational objectivity in contrast to human subjectivity. Exploring these dynamics sheds light on the ongoing relationship between news technologies and discourses of journalistic objectivity in the face of digital innovations in the production and circulation of news.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1117-1133
Number of pages17
JournalDigital Journalism
Volume7
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 14 2019

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Keywords

  • Epistemology
  • algorithms
  • automated journalism
  • journalism
  • mechanical objectivity
  • metrics
  • objectivity
  • photojournalism

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