Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If We Don't Respect It, Should They?

Katie Flaherty

Are "self-inflicted wounds" the subtle way of reporting an attempted suicide? The "wounds" Seigenthaler describes not only injure individual journalists' reputations it lampoons the entire profession. In cases such as Jayson Blair lifting a story for The Times from the Express News to pass as his own, not only undermined the ethical basis of journalism, but it jaded the reputation of the media entirely. When renowned outlets such as the New York Times are the distributors of plagiarism, how does the public ever trust its sources? Without trust how do we exist at all as a profession? Not to mention, where does one go to get authentic news, this dooms people to always be skeptical of what they are receiving. Unlike other professions, we have a field in which our mistakes have repercussions through to the very core of our work. If one doctor in one hospital misdiagnoses a patient does the public distrust the whole hospital or all doctors in that specific field of medicine? No. However, Blair's actions smeared all over The Times and journalism as a whole, I'm not saying no one reads The Times due to this one incident, but I do believe the backlash is much more pervasive in the journalism field. This is partly because we ask for it, we want to be accountable for our actions and especially with the internet and new social media forms we ask for feedback and people respond two- fold.

I don't think it's so much a break down of standards as it is a broad to weak understanding of the core foundations, and not just the ethics and laws, but also the history of the field. None of these subjects are emphasized in school for student journalist and without a strong understanding of these values and past it's hard to build our own basic ethical codes. Sure we have our morals, but J411 (Comm Law) I was not aware of many of the cases upon which we base most of our laws and ethical standards. Instead of theses fundamental ideals, what's stressed to us as students is social media, BLOGGING,Twitter, things that are most often learned by students outside of class. I check Facebook hourly, but would I go to the Student Press Law Center to check on the Sunshine Laws of my state, probably not. I also think this focus on social media and sidestep away from historical precedence has caused the sanctity of the field to lower, yes we may have degrees coming out of Scripps, but now there are numerous citizen journalist who may receive as much if not more attention than we do as professionals.

Yes, were journalists, an ego comes with the job, but its a balancing act as Robertson points out in Confronting the Culture , "'noteworthy' and 'ethical' don't always rest in the same piece of work." I don't believe that competitive pressure should work as an excuse for plagiarism or short cuts. If you are in the news business it should not be about recognition, now novelist and feature writers that might be an exception, but if you are a hard news writer it should not be about "you" at all. Yes, you may present the facts in a unique way as part of your own style, which may distinguish you as successful in your work, but in reality the article should have nothing do with you personally. News stories should be about the information and the public's right to know the facts, not the reporters notoriety. For example on World News Tonight, Charlie Gibson (did not show embed code, but the 1st video on the page entitled "Gibson's Favorite Political Moments" is what I intended to show) had a farewell episode in which he himself admitted to the self-indulgence. I actually think Charlie is an excellent journalist, however, I think when the news becomes about the newscaster, and how they covered the story and not the story itself, then we've lost site of the profession.
Oh pop culture, okay. This seems to be the only widely recognized form today. One of the interviewees in Robertson's article Catherine Manegold says,"... Students are growing up in a generation where it's all about saturation coverage and sensationalism." We wonder why people don't value our profession as they used to, or why some choose to "take short cuts" seeming not to value their own trade, it's because there's no filter on what's news anymore. I think sometimes we forget that we (well maybe editors and journalist) have the power to make decisions on what is and is not newsworthy. We are the distributors, so we dictate what the audience will digest, yet we seem upset in the direction our audience focuses their attention. Why do most people pick up People Magazine over the New York Times? Why are Paris Hilton and Snooki famous? Not because they have any talent or redeeming qualities, but because we give them a stage. We put such a heavy emphasis on celebrity gossip and "reality" TV , if we wouldn't put so much of it out there, and pushed more important stories to the forefront then the public's interests/perspective might change. Not to mention attitudes towards journalist and news might change to regard our work as necessary to the functioning of our country, rather than superfluous and entertaining.

Does this mean we're not doing our job?

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