RE: Tech writing saves journalism - objectivity is impossible

Subject: RE: Tech writing saves journalism - objectivity is impossible
From: "John Rosberg" <jrosberg -at- interwoven -dot- com>
To: "Fetzner, Bill" <BFetzner -at- amsuper -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2006 08:35:36 -0500


While I agree with many of your points, you've neglected one or two, I

The products of journalists (print or broadcast) are chosen and
purchased on their own merits each and every time they are used.

Technical Communicator's efforts, on the other hand, are generally
"bundled" with another product, and, therefore, not chosen for their own
value or benefits (with the clear exception of aftermarket technical
communications, which, I submit, are far more often chosen in
desperation after attempts to use manufacturer-supplied documents {said
desperation caused by either real or imagined lack of value in the OEM

Journalism 101 teaches that objectivity IS an impossible goal -- the
very act of choosing what to cover is a subjective decision -- we Tech
Writers do the same thing (remember the wrangling over the bug list
during the last portion of the release cycle, or the choosing of what
"features" to document and which is leave undocumented).

Lastly, Journalism is a for-profit endeavor -- I have a strong belief
that, if a large enough group of people made their desire of an
"objective" source of news, that desire would be filled (someone please
call me the day the Christian Science Monitor outsells the National
Enquirer {tongue firmly in cheek).

John Rosberg

-----Original Message-----
From: Fetzner, Bill [mailto:BFetzner -at- amsuper -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:55 AM
To: 'Edwin Skau'; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Tech writing saves journalism - objectivity is impossible

Edwin Skau writes: <<Nobody can honestly be objective.>>

First of all, love that quote from WRH, which helps explain why so many
newspapers today contain far more advertising than news. But about being
objective: this seems to get back to the original point that we can be
of our tech writing profession because we're not, in general, departing
a commitment to truth, objectivity and comprehensiveness despite the
reception our works commonly receive. Quite the opposite, in fact, as is
regularly proven by comments in this forum that seek ever better ways to
communicate to the intended audience, and to recognize "cultural
anthropology" as Sean interjected in this thread.

In fact, tech writers are very cognizant of cultural factors in their
writing, and usually try hard to deal with them. I think, for example,
our common need to address different audiences because of differences
may have in the ways they think and act. And then there are some of us
are asked to write for other cultures, requiring us to standardize our
language even more than usual to the point of writing in simplified
That's real dedication to clarity and unambiguity, and takes a high
of objectivity to pull it off well.

If tech writers can do it, and I argue that we're trying hard to equip
ourselves with tools and methods for enhancing objectively, then why not
news writers whose job, after all, is to give us the facts so that we
decide? Imagine a technical writer indulging either freely or covertly
his biases, such as hyping the help system while trashing the user
interface. I'd say he is an is an embarrassment to his profession and
doesn't deserve to keep that job.

Some writers strive for a higher level of objectively than others, and
are a
credit to their profession. I'd argue that some professions make it "job
one" as well.
~ Bill


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RE: Tech writing saves journalism - objectivity is impossible: From: Fetzner, Bill

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