Monday, June 9, 2008

Revolutionizing Objectivity

By Stephen Dockery

My partner Sarah Wali and I, as well as the whole Bootcamp group, sat down with around 10 of the top bloggers in Cairo this evening in Cafe Riche.

Partially to gain knowledge of the region, but more to help figure out our mess of a story on the Cairo police force. We picked the brains of Wael Abbas, Sandmonkey, Ahmed Naje, Ahmed Driny & others, and tried to at least get more context behind our story, if not another primary source.

Yet after talking for a half an hour, I found myself slipping, I was still asking the same style questions that I usually try to ask (neutral, unassuming) except when the blogger answered, I was no longer just writing down their answer and thinking of a follow up question. But I would throw in an occasional eye roll, or excessive head nod. I would add after an answer "that just doesn't make sense". Maybe it was the bloggers youth, or their passion for their cause. Either way I was editorializing my journalism.
From our initial lecture, I had gathered that journalism in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt, was much different from in the U.S. I often made the comparison that Arab journalism had much more in common with the Revolutionary war than current US journalism today. Maybe its a shallow comparison, but I think there is something to be said about the youthful nature of Arab journalism.

Either way, the neutral ground I had based my journalism on was slipping away. How had I become so politicized? Maybe you can't practice objective journalism in Egypt, can you really not choose sides when your dealing with police brutality and torture? A tortured father, a sodomized bus driver? Can you give the NDP a legitimate voice in your article, which all sources point to corruption and incompetence?

I'm still figuring it out, but I think there's something to carry over from my US journalism knowledge. There's something to learn from a not overly politicized class of journalism. I as a journalist just cant choose sides. I decided I will stop rolling my eyes and nodding my head. Even if somewhere in the the back of my mind I am.


wa7da masrya said...

Hi stef,

it was nice to meet you todaya at cafe rich , i was thinkin about this short discussion we had on the diffrence betwen journalism here in Egypt and the journalism isn the USA
I think here in Egypt to be objective is to be with those people who are victims of toture ,is to be with those who are victims of this military gouverning regime ,is to give them voice to speak loud ,to focus on and show their stories ,and this make a diffrence,and i think this is the real message of a journalist

Shahinaz Abdel Salam

Ethar El-Katatney said...

You've touched upon a very important issue here, and one I believe in very strongly.

Yes, objective journalism is something we should aspire to reach. Of course, no one is 100% objective, but that's not to say it's impossible to get close to.

As an Egyptian journalist, it's doubly hard to try and be objective when it's so easy not to be. There is no punishment for being biased, and you may even be faulted for being objective, for portraying the "other" (whatever that other may be—with regards to politics, religion, nationality etc) in a neutral light.

I'm glad you enjoyed meeting the bloggers; I've met a number of them and can personally attest that they are a group that deserve all the best for their bravery.