Objective auto journalism


A few days ago I had an inquiry from a student on the subject of “Objectivity in the motor press”. He's about the article Does Automotive Journalism Matter stumbled and summarized my comments as follows:

Summarizing your article, I notice the following, admittedly quite provocative thesis: Objective autotests are illusions.


Here is my answer to his email - the questions I referred to in the answers are set out as "quotes":

Dear Mr. -,

I would like to say very provocatively: objectivity in the assessment of "objects" and "behavior" is just a clever deception and simply does not take place as long as people are involved.

An objective assessment of automobiles based on facts may be possible at first glance, but is still subject to the assessor's framework. In the end, there is only what can actually be measured - which, however, is not an evaluation in itself. An evaluation of the results takes place only by humans and here I can speak from everyday life and say: There are no objective automobile tests. There may be an objective collection of data. The weighting of the data, the standards to compare the data are sorted by individuals.

Now one may believe that the larger a group - the more objective. In the end, however, it is not the objectivity that decides in the group, but only the compromise of many subjective evaluations.

Especially in Autotest (imho but also applies to every other consumer goods sector), it is already praiseworthy if objectivity is sought - nevertheless, our own frame of reference makes these efforts the end. (See here on the frame of reference in the transaction analysis)

The larger the group, the greater the chance that a broad frame of reference will ultimately flow into the assessment. However, I would not speak of objectivity here, but of consensus.

Dedicated to your questions:

how, in your opinion, is objectivity as a “necessary evil” relevant for overall evaluations of a vehicle test?

There are 2 points for this:

P1: On the one hand, it is journalists' consensus at the moment that particular objectivity should be used in the assessment of an automobile, but I am convinced that this pressure is external - based on the idea, which is the highest possible recognition for them to get a composed assessment. And so in the end should only promote personal recognition.
P2: The future belongs to the subjective test. The report from the eyes of the target group. Simple comparison of technical data, no journalistic training is required. The consumer can do this himself. Consumers expect an “assessment” and here we are with the fundamental question: Can this be objective? No. It is therefore authentic in the entire journalistic process (consumer goods !, not politics or economy, or social issues) to provide a free - recognized subjective presentation of the facts.

In your opinion, are measurable, objectively understandable vehicle parameters such as trunk volume, zero to one hundred acceleration, price (difference to competitors) and safety equipment in no way decisive for a vehicle test?

But. When the tester or the editors limit themselves to making a judgment about a vehicle based on simple numerical values. However, this is not a journalistic achievement. Anyone can compare numbers. The art is more about evaluating the differences. In the assessment of the differences and their relevance for the buyer group. And here all objectivity ends again at the frame of reference of the assessor.

Did I understand you correctly when you say that objectivity, according to Ralf Becker's embedded video, is only the result of a multi-source search?

There is no objectivity of an individual. Only the result is more differentiated, the further the horizon of the "assessor" - here the use of - as much sources as possible - is the basis!

After all, objective reporting is part of a journalist's craft.

I didn't go to any journalism school. It may be that you mean the goal of objectivity and I think it is easier to get an objective view of "happenings and events" by comparing their facts from many sources and talking about them, but not on consumer goods in an extreme sophisticated marketing landscape. Advertising affects us all, relationships affect us and of course emotions. To want to talk about objectivity here with motor journalists - apart from the discussion about “bought lobbyism” - does not come close to the concept of objectivity.

I expect pure subjectivity from authors. The recipients expect background information, comparisons of facts and of course (in the case of a comparative test) a certain subjective part of the test from journalists.

The listing of background information and the comparison of facts is, in my opinion, still far from being objective journalism. As long as the human being is not able to reach the meta-level of his own feelings and assessments
- Journalists will remain subject to their own frame of reference for so long.

At the end of the whole process, it all boils down
the question beyond: How do we define “objectivity” in motor journalism.
Is it already objective to list the facts and without evaluation
represent? But what added value would that offer the reader? This requires
not a journalist.

I go as far as to say:

The reader wants a subjective assessment of the vehicle - because he looks for himself at the end of the day
the reports that confirm his expectations.

Complete objectivity cannot lead to the goal here.

Also read http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radikaler_Konstruktivismus 😉


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