Stanford journalism scholar says journalists should be ‘activists,’ ‘advocates for social justice’

  • Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser says that journalists should be activists instead of objective.
  • He called into question whether “objective truth” actually exists.

Stanford University’s revered expert in journalism outright rejects the notion of “objectivity” in the practice. 

In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford Communications Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser stated that journalists must abandon objectivity in order to work toward social justice. 

“I like to view journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality."   

“Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity," he said.

Glasser is a Stanford Department of Communication professor emeritus. For 14 years, he served as the director for Stanford’s Graduate Program in Journalism. He also held the position of president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication from 2002-2003.

For nearly two decades, he sat on the board of directors for The Stanford Daily Publishing Corporation, including “a brief stint as board chair; and for nine years a member of the program committee of the John S. Knight Fellowships program for mid-career journalists,” according to his university bio.

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In response to an inquiry from Campus Reform, Glasser doubled down. 

"My understanding of journalism, like my understanding of history, rests on the premise that there is no finally correct description of anything — only interpretations," Glasser said. He explained that the concept of objectivity is a barrier to achieving social progress, and claimed that "objective truth" doesn’t actually exist. 

“I’m not a big fan of the term ‘objectivity’ or ‘objective truth’ because it gets us talking about all the wrong things," Glasser explained.

“I like to view journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality," Glasser added.

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“I welcome the opportunity to respond to your inquiry but first we need to be sure we’re on the same page,” Glasser said when asked to comment. “I reject your claim that ‘journalism is a distinct field that is supposed to be based in objective truth.’ Indeed, I have no idea what you mean by ‘objective truth.’ Can you point to it?”

After Campus Reform defined the term as requested, Glasser said he was “surprised” by the response. 

“No offense, but who cares what you think about what I said?” He later apologized, after being reminded of his request.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SilversteinUSA



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Joseph Silverstein
Joseph Silverstein | New York Campus Correspondent

Joseph Silverstein is a New York Campus Correspondent with Campus Reform. He is a Junior at Cornell University, where he's double majoring in Government and Economics. Joe is the current Editor in Chief of The Cornell Review and has previously hosted a radio talk show based in NYC, authored a bestselling book, and served as Student Organization President at Tottenville High School.

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