Journalism faculty, students deprioritize 'objectivity,' 'impartiality' in reporting

UNC journalism professors are uncomfortable with a plaque at the school that espouses the values of 'impartiality' and 'truth.'

Two Appalachian State University students argue that 'bias is inherent in journalism' and 'objectivity is rooted in white supremacy.'

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ July 6 decision to reject the University of North Carolina’s offer of tenure prompted some journalism faculty and college students to downplay the value of “objectivity” and “impartiality” in reporting. 

[RELATED: Nikole Hannah-Jones turns down UNC tenure offer]

On July 14, journalism professors at the University of North Carolina held a meeting to discuss their discomfort with objective reporting, specifically “impartiality” in reporting and editing, as outlined in the “Statement of Core Values” displayed in the university’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. 

The “Statement of Core Values” plaque was contingent Walter Hussman Jr.’s naming gift to the university, as reported by The News & Observer. According to the local news outlet, the UNC faculty felt uncomfortable with donors’ involvement in university hiring, specifically the role Hussman’s name and beliefs play in the journalism school.

[RELATED: Student leaders issue ‘anti-racist’ demands to UNC in aftermath of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ rejection of tenure offer]

On July 15, Appalachian State University students Hannah Cullen and Isabella King wrote an op-ed in the university’s student newspaper, The Appalachian, arguing that anti-racism and dismantling “white supremacy” is more valuable than upholding academic standards. 

Referring to the controversy, the students claim UNC trustees are representatives of systemic racism within the realm of higher education. “The move made by top university officials at UNC, including individuals on the board of trustees, is an abuse of power directly silencing Black voices and pursuits. A Black journalist should not have to choose between calling out and deconstructing white supremacy or excelling in her career,” the op-ed states.

Additionally, the students targeted the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Walter Hussman Jr due to the series of emails he sent to UNC trustees voicing his concerns over Hannah-Jones’s biased reporting and the historical inaccuracies.

“Hussman’s valuing of ‘objectivity’ over anti-racism is rooted in white supremacy because objectivity, as Hannah-Jones argues, values a white perspective,” the students wrote.

“If your objectivity actively reduces Black voices and contributions, perhaps you don’t value perspectives that don’t look like your own. The people in power write the history books and will always view their actions through the rose-tinted glasses of self-justification.”

The students also argued that “factual reporting” comes from a “white normative view.”

“When white Americans say to me, ‘I just want factual reporting, what they’re saying to me is they want reporting from a white perspective … with a white normative view, and that simply has never been objective,” the two students wrote.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Scholar counters claims of 1619 Project in new book]

As a footnote, in an effort of transparency, the students exposed themselves as “white women” and that [they] “have no intention of speaking over the plethora of more knowledgeable voices of People of Color who have already spoken out about these issues and others like them.”

Historians have since debunked Hannah-Jones’ claims that the “primary reason the colonists fought in the American Revolution was to preserve slavery,” forcing The New York Times to make a clarification about the project’s portrayal of American history. 

Campus Reform reached out to Appalachian State University, the University of North Carolina, and the writers for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ameliascarponi