Test Yourself: Objectivity

Objectivity (sticking strictly to observable, verifiable facts) is essential to criminal justice reporting. Objective details showcase your professionalism, and they can help prevent awkward moments in a court trial. Objectivity can even help you avoid a visit to court. An objective report prevents challenges because the facts are clearly laid out.

This activity will help you evaluate your own understanding of objectivity. Which of the following sentences are objective?

1.  On the east side of 10th Street I saw a WM in jeans and a red flannel shirt who was behaving suspiciously.

2.  Albert Johnson threatened his wife.

3.  I smelled beer on Carol Johnson’s breath.

4.  Inmate Palmer approached me with his fists clenched.

5.  I saw what might be a weapon in his left pocket.

6.  I saw an irregular bulge in his left pocket.

7.  Overturned bureau drawers were lying on the bedroom floor.

8.  I saw evidence of a break-in.

9.  Inmate Chapman looked nervous when I walked into his cell.

10.  Harmon’s hands trembled when I asked him to open his locker.

ANSWERS:

Words and phrases that lack objectivity are in red.

1.  On the east side of 10th Street I saw a WM in jeans and a red flannel shirt who was behaving suspiciously.

2.  Albert Johnson threatened his wife.

3.  I smelled beer on Carol Johnson’s breath. (Beer has a definite odor.)

4.  Inmate Palmer approached me with his fists clenched. (You can see clenched fists.)

5.  I saw what might be a weapon in his left pocket.

6.  I saw an irregular bulge in his left pocket.  (You can see an irregular bulge.)

7.  Overturned bureau drawers were lying on the bedroom floor. (You can see the drawers.)

8.  I saw evidence of a break-in.  (Sometimes perpetrators try to fake a break-in. You can’t assume that disorder was created by an intruder.)

9.  Inmate Chapman looked nervous when I walked into his cell. (What looks like nervous behavior to one person might seem normal to another observer.)

10.  Harmon’s hands trembled when I asked him to open his locker. (You can see trembling hands.)


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