Broadcaster Judy Woodruff explores reporters’ objectivity

September 19, 2005

September 19, 2005 — The Shorenstein Center kicked off its annual series of brown-bag lunches with “A Conversation with Judy Woodruff,” moderated by Shorenstein Center director Alex Jones.

Woodruff is a broadcast journalist who has covered politics and breaking news for NBC, PBS, and CNN, and served as anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, anchoring the weekday political program, Inside Politics. At PBS, she was the chief Washington correspondent for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and anchored a PBS weekly documentary series, Frontline with Judy Woodruff. At NBC News, Woodruff served as White House correspondent and as chief Washington correspondent for the Today Show. She is a Visiting Fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center this fall.

In the wake of uncharacteristically aggressive reporting on Hurricane Katrina and the recent incarceration of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Woodruff’s talk largely focused on the issue of objectivity and whether reporters feel free to voice their own opinions. While Woodruff acknowledged that objectivity is an intangible ideal for all — including journalists — she emphasized the need for reporters to present both sides of a story.

Woodruff also conceded that journalists remain aware of commercial and political pressures. Indeed, with the wave of patriotism that followed the September 11 attacks, many reporters began censoring themselves in their criticism of the government.

Despite this and the evolution of the media presaged by the growing popularity of blogs and talking heads, Woodruff expressed her hope that the public will continue to seek out news organizations that present stories in a balanced light.