Objective News?

By Andy Beaubien, BPR

In one of our recent BPR perceptual studies, we tested listener understanding of the term “objective news”. As it turned out, respondents defined objective news in a variety of different ways some of which were consistent with news industry expectations and others which were not consistent with normal definitions of the term.

When it comes to news, listeners tend to define “objective” in a variety of different ways. In the study, we were surprised to learn that almost 90% of listeners consider commentary and personal opinion as objective, especially if it reinforces their own views and beliefs. Almost 2/3 of respondents said that humour and satire also qualify as objective news. Of course, “just the facts” ranked highest but the fact that a large percentage of listeners defined objective news in startlingly different ways suggests that the term really has little value in our modern day media environment.

These results raise the question as to the way we define and promote our news and information programs.

So how do we promote our news and information programs? Here are some possibilities.


  1. Promote local news – Localism has always been one of radio’s assets. Local news, weather and traffic reports define local information.
  2. Promote news as it happens – One advantage that radio has over television and newspapers is the ability to report a breaking news event as it happens. Some programmers are afraid to interrupt a program to insert a news bulletin but the act of doing so makes a powerful statement.
  3. Explain the story behind the headline – Sometimes it is necessary to explain a news story in terms that the listener can easily understand. Subjects such as the economy or government legislation are often difficult for the average listener to digest.
  4. Promote local sport and public events – Nothing says local better than a story about a home town sport team. Forget about objectivity. When it comes to sport, root for the home team!
  5. Offer commentary – Yes, listeners are interested in opinion but only when they feel that they can trust the “expert” expressing that opinion. Promote the expert’s qualifications but also give the listener an opportunity to express their own agreement or disagreement.


News and information have always been a part of broadcast radio. To abandon news and information is the first step toward becoming irrelevant.



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