During my time as a college journalism instructor, I’d often talk to my students about the importance of objective news.

I’d tell them why the Founding Fathers instilled a Freedom of the Press in our Constitution’s First Amendment. I’d tell them why journalists were envisioned as card-carrying members of the Fourth Estate and “Community Watchdogs” for the people.

“Fake News” Illustration by Frederick Burr Opper, 1894

And the reasoning behind both is simple: “A capable democracy cannot exist without an accurately informed citizenry.” Anything less is either public relations or propaganda.

Journalism’s greatest asset to the American public is its traditional independence from government and corporation. Essentially, only an objective voice with a commitment to a nation’s people can dismantle corporate monopolies or dislodge a governmental lie.

A working democracy relies on an informed citizenry, and our Founding Fathers understood large entities would require an unbiased and public judge. In a world saturated by ever-expanding venues of communication and an agenda-oriented national press, an impartial voice in news is needed now more than ever.

I’d often steer my students away from any national media outlet, pushing them instead to their local newspapers and business journals for contemporary examples of accurate reporting. The national scene is either motivated by ad sells or a “hidden” political agenda. For them, divisive headlines and fire-breathing editorialists seem the quickest route to viewers and increased ad revenues.

John F. Kennedy on the “need” for an objective press

To these folks, there is simply no money in “Fly on the Wall” reporting. The objective truth is not interesting enough, or even worse, it is somewhere in the middle, and they need you to choose a side because they have.

Hardly sounds like journalism, right?

Well, it isn’t. It is editorial, and without calling anyone by name, every major news venue is guilty. But they are selling more than ads, they’re selling you their opinions. The truth, whether it be in the shark-infested waters of Corporate America or the bloody trenches of our politics, is almost always somewhere in the middle, neither Democratic or Republican, believer or non-believer.

My commitment to Tarbell is motivated by an American “need” for objective, investigative reporting. The national news landscape has been swept away in subjectivity, political correctness and an editorial plan driven by personal sentiment rather than fact. The industry requires an overhaul and renewed commitment to our most-prized journalistic principle.

After all, the truth has only one version, and there may be many interpretations, but there is only one authentic, “truth”.