Back in the day, it was imperative to back up articles with facts, references and whos, whats, wheres, whys and hows. Nowadays it’s much different. On the web we can write what we want, when we want, and how we want. We can write the most unbelievable crap, if we want, and there will still always be someone who believes it.
As bloggers, we can offer a balanced opinion or a one-sided point of view. However, if a writer is continuously one-sided in his assessments, he can’t wake one day and decide he’s going to be fair and objective. It won’t fly among his readers. It’s sort of like Bill O’Reilly saying he’s going to give an objective assessment of the Obama Health Care Plan. If you continuously, and obviously, lean to one side of the other, you can’t claim to reside in the no spin zone.
A community counts on favorite bloggers to offer an honest point of view. However, it’s the same as with those who are watching the aforementioned Mr. O’Reilly. If you’re constantly blogging against a certain idea or entity, to come back and say, “well today I’m going to offer a balanced assessment of the idea or entity I’ve been railing against for the past year” it isn’t going to fly. Opinions are one thing, and readers value opinions, but if you want to be truly objective, you’re going to have to take a few things into consideration.
Being truly objective spans a career, it’s not a one off thing. To be objective in your writing:
1. Keep Your Emotions in Check
An objective writer has passion but keeps emotion and personal point of view in check. Anyone offering an honest or balanced point of view will always show all sides of a story. An objective report doesn’t have an angry tone, nor is it continuously rosy. A balanced point of view is exactly that, balanced. It’s hard to be fair when you’re mad at a company for a particular reason or if you don’t like one of the people behind the company. It’s also hard to be fair if you’re “objectively” pitching a product or service.
The above applies to past articles as well. For example if you regularly write about Evil Company X and discuss how they’re against everything you stand for and you will never recommend anyone work for them, you can’t turn around and say, “well today I’m goign to give an objective point of view about Evil Company X.” That doesn’t fly and your readers won’t buy it. Moreover, if you’re going to write a “balanced” negative piece in a magazine article and then a really one-sided angry piece on your blog about the same topic, you’re playing with your credibility.
2.Keep Your Agenda in Check
If you’re selling something, you’re probably not the right person to give a balanced point of view. If you hate something with a passion, you’re probably not the right person to give an objective point of view. Plus, if the only people you quote or interview are the people who share your point of view, your agenda is made obvious. If you stated your displeasure for Evil Topic Y on a regular basis, you can’t come back and say, “but today’s article is different because I’m going to be objective.” How can you possibly show objectivity about a topic you’re so negative about every other time? No one will buy it. Transparency is one thing, but no one can be objective after previously expressing dissatisfaction with a particular company, product, service or person.
3. Keep Your Bandwagon in the Parking Lot
Is this you, “Hey…this topic brings in mega-traffic. If I link to this blogger or piggy back on his topic not only will I get the traffic, but I’ll get the comments too. If I give it a really negative slant, we can have a really cool free for all.” Unfortunately, bandwagon traffic is short-lived and those 60 comment posts are few and far between. If you’re only jumping on negative topics for the traffic your community will get bored, especially if it’s not a topic you delve into on a regular basis anyway. Most readers can spot a bandwagon jumper right away. There’s no way you can expect to be fair and objective when your obvious goal is to bring in traffic with negativity.
Bloggers aren’t always known for their objectivity. Most of us make no bones about how we feel and that’s why our community visits us every day. However, if you’re going to claim to be fair and balanced, make sure you don’t leave a breadcrumb trail back to your agenda.
Updated to Add: Someone asked a little while ago on Twitter how one can be objective with when it’s known that person endorses a particular product or service. It’s a good, valid point. The truth is, you can’t. You have to be honest about your affiliation and let readers draw their own conclusions. However, if you built up a trust with your readers, such as I have over 4 1/2 years, hopefully they’ll trust your judgement. Especially if you’re not in the habit of accepting money to endorse anyone who comes along. It’s all about trust. I hope I can speak about my sponsors honestly without people thinking I’m a shill, but that’s not going to happen, people are going to say it anyway. So I won’t claim objectivity when talking about a sponsor.