The particularity of objectivity: A post-structuralist and psychoanalytical reading of the gap between objectivity-as-a-value and objectivity-as-a-practice in the 2003 Iraqi War coverage

Nico Carpentier, Marit Trioen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

This chapter reconceptualizes journalistic objectivity by relating it to Ernesto Laclau’s discussion on univeralism and particularism, as well as to the Lacanian concepts of desire and fantasy. These reflections lead to a theoretical framework in which the particularity of objectivity is constructed at two levels: objectivity-as-a-value and objectivity-as-a-practice. First, objectivity-as-a-value is considered a particular value, which is simultaneously universalized and hegemonized as a nodal point of ‘good journalism’. Second, objectivity unavoidably needs to be materialized at the level of practice, which also renders it particular and always-imperfect. The particularity of objectivity creates a gap between journalistic ideology and practice, problematic and constitutive for both. Here, the Lacanian concepts of desire and fantasy offer an explanatory model for the desire for objective reporting and its fantasmatic realization. At the same time this fantasy turns out to be unachievable, as the particular always intervenes. To show the workings of the gap between objectivity-as-a-value and objectivity-as-a-practice, the ego-documents of one North Belgian and two Dutch Iraq War journalists are analysed. Four ways of dealing with the gap can be found in these self-reflexive journalists’ books: 1) narrating the gap; 2) explaining it by reverting to an educational stance; 3) trying to bypass it by constructing utopian and fantasmatic locations of truthfulness; and 4) reducing it by pleading for a rearticulation of journalistic ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunication and Discourse Theory
Subtitle of host publicationCollected works of the Brussels Discourse Theory Group
EditorsLeen Van Brussel, Benjamin De Cleen, Nico Carpentier
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherIntellect Publishers
Pages159-178
ISBN (Print)9781789380545
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • desire
  • fantasy
  • hegemony
  • journalistic identity
  • objectivity
  • particularism
  • universalism
  • war coverage

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