Advocacy Journalism: Rethinking Bias, Balance and Neutrality

abstract: 

What follows is a folio of three first-person journalistic features I wrote in my honours year,1 and an exegesis that gives a reflective analysis of these features.

The first feature, ‘Mixed Signals’, was written under academic supervision. It is not thematically linked to the second two, and contains fewer primary sources. This is because — despite repeated attempts — I failed to get ethics clearance for a proposed article about Tamil men charged with terror offences, by late August.

The second and third essays — ‘Guns, Guards & Gates’ and ‘Thought-crime and punishment’ — were written before I secured a supervisor. They have been published.

In all these essays, I intended to write literary journalism, but instead I wrote in the tradition of journaliste engagé, or ‘advocacy journalism’, which is evidence- based but sets out to advance a specific viewpoint.

In examining the methods by which I constructed these features, my exegesis considers whether ‘advocacy journalism’ is an oxymoron or a redundant phrase. It argues that, while in some ways my features take a journalistic approach, they are ultimately not journalism as it is ideally understood.

My exegesis explores where advocacy and journalism meet, where they depart, why this matters, and where method and a more narrative approach might prevent this departure. In doing this, I consider common understandings of bias, balance and fairness.

author/s: 
links: 

supervisor: Margaret Simons

This research consisted of three published literary journalism articles and an exegesis. They are not available via this site due to copyright restrictions, and contain sensitive information concerning informants and sources.