The "objectivity'' ideal and its limitations in 20th-century British journalism

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81 Citations (Scopus)


Scholars of British journalism often refer to an Anglo-American shared ideal of "objectivity.'' While well-demonstrated in the American context, however, this ideal is merely assumed in the British context. In fact, a close examination of professional discourse among 20th-century British journalists shows the limitations of this ideal's appeal. Although it has appeared in particular contexts, specifically as corporate norms at Reuters and the BBC, throughout the 20th century it was never accepted as a generalized ideal among British journalists. Particularly among print journalists, such ideals as independence, fair play, and non-intervention by the state were far more compelling than objectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-493
Number of pages17
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

Bibliographical note

Earlier drafts of this paper were presented to audiences at Hong Kong University's History Department, the Social History Society Conference, and the European Social Science History Conference. I am grateful to the audiences for their comments. In addition, I am grateful to the American Philosophical Society for funding the research upon which this article is based, and to the BBC Written Archives Centre, the National Union of Journalists, and The Reuters Archive for permission to publish material from their archives.


  • Anglo-American media traditions
  • British journalism
  • Communication
  • culture of journalism
  • objectivity
  • professional ideals


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