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WANTED: Professional talk show hosts

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One of the words that should be erased from the English language is the word “objective”.

When you think about it, it is next to impossible to achieve. A human being is incapable of being objective. To be objective, one has to remove emotion or personal bias and that is impossible.

People often say that journalists should be “objective” but try as they might, they cannot so totally divorce themselves, take themselves out of the woods to see the trees, so to speak, and view the situation through purely clinical eye glasses.{{more}}

It is one of the problems in journalism and runs counter to the calls from the public for objectivity in reporting.

That is because the slant that a reporter takes on a story is influenced by a number of factors including that person’s culture (his/her upbringing) and the organisational culture of the media house.

In a similar fashion, if one were to poll the people who attended any event in St Vincent and ask each what was the story, numerous stories would be told. Everyone sees it from a different angle and no one can therefore be objective.

So, the academicians went back to the drawing board to look at what it means to be a “professional journalist” and they concluded that objectivity has to go out and “balance” has to come in. This path is fraught with some danger and subject to debate but that’s for another time.

The point they were making is that since the journalist cannot objectively report then they must allow each side to have a say and so balance the report. This, therefore, became one of the hallmarks of “professionalism” in journalism.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the majority of radio talk shows are biased. They are slanted to one political side or another. But that is their right – as long as they declare their bias and everyone knows which corner of the ring they’re in.

However, biasness should not and must not be a cloak for hearsay, rumour, innuendo, or malicious and mischievous comments. These poison people’s minds and do nothing to advance the cause of national development.

We fully support disclosure, exposés, freedom of information, and investigative probes and encourage the biased and the unbiased radio shows to pursue these avenues.

However the danger of a biased broadcast is that outside of the diehards and conspiracy theorists they will be dismissed – even when they might have a valid point.

What is sorely needed are professional talk show hosts – who will have their biases but will also allow balance on their shows. That is, if someone calls in from the ULP, that host should have the courage to engage that person and aggressively challenge him on matters of public concern irrespective of whether the host is a sympathizer of the party. Similarly, the NDP caller should be treated likewise. The host or moderator needs to bring professional balance to the show. In fact, put both opposing parties on the line to thrash out the point at issue.

The same thing goes for all other sectors. If the public has consumer complaints, by all means get a representative of that company on the line to answer the charge.

That is what good radio is made of.

Let the biased ones stay but with the emergence of professionally hosted talk shows, radio stations will soon discover on which dial and which timeslot the public will congregate in overwhelming numbers.

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