Jeff Jarvis
Founder,; Columnist, The Guardian

Jeff Jarvis on Transparency versus Objectivity

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Objectivity, Jarvis says, is a lie.

Jeff Jarvis

JEFF JARVIS, author of Gutenberg the Geek (Amazon Publishing), Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live (Simon & Schuster, 2011) and What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009), blogs about media and news at He is associate professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

He is consulting editor and a partner at Daylife, a news startup. He consults for media companies and is a public speaker. Until 2005, he was president and creative director of, the online arm of Advance Publications. Prior to that, Jarvis was creator and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly; Sunday editor and associate publisher of the New York Daily News; TV critic for TV Guide and People; a columnist on the San Francisco Examiner; assistant city editor and reporter for the Chicago Tribune; reporter for Chicago Today.


Question: Does transparency trump objectivity?

Jeff Jarvis: I think objectivity was a lie, objectivity was an effort to say, “I have no opinions, I’m kind of not human and I can turn off all opinions that I have and I don’t need to tell you anything about myself because I decree myself objective.”

Well no, I think the public has a right to know your background, your perspective, your influences in big and little ways.

Maybe you should put in a box of all the links that you saw before you wrote a story so that they know what sources, what influenced you.

I think that transparency is a matter of respect and trust to the audience. Now then comes intellectual honesty, then if you say, “Well yeah okay, I’m a Democrat, I’ve told you I’m a Democrat, but I’m going to tell you something that’s going to hurt the Democratic Party because it’s the right thing to do." You’ll respect me for doing that, I think you’ll respect me more for me having told you that I’m a Democrat.

So transparency is about the trust and the relationship with the public you’re serving. That I think is an ethic that we can learn a lot from. Objectivity is about hiding stuff, objectivity is about saying, “No, no, no, no, I’m not gonna tell you my opinions because that’s somehow gonna make me more objective”--that’s a lie of omission.

Recorded on: April 30, 2008