Monday, April 4, 2011

New Media, New Technology, New Ethics?

By: S.A. Cruikshank

Journalists wishing to do their job ethically have no shortage of codes to follow in general. There's the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics among others. Now, however, journalism organizations are now reconsidering their codes to include information about how to ethically use new media. For example, RTDNA recently released social media guidelines to avoid what Poynter's Al Tompkins called "ethical traps.". These new guidelines include asking critical questions about the source of video and pictures and determining if a story is significant.

New Ethics Needed?
These guidelines are certainly helpful for any journalist, and as the guidelines suggest, a conversation should be had in the newsroom about the role of social media in that particular news organization. However, are these guidelines, or a new look at ethics really needed when it comes to social media? Shouldn't a journalist reporting in traditional media carefully check sources? And shouldn't that person make sure a story is significant before he or she publishes or broadcasts it? A careful examination of the new guidelines and the SPJ Code of Ethics reveal similarities throughout.

Same Argument, Different Topic
New technologies and new media have always sparked these kinds of conversations among journalists. Take for example, the introduction of computers and editing software. How far is too far when it comes to using editing software to bring photos or videos to the audience? Time Magazine became the center of a controversy when it darkened the background of O.J. Simpson's mugshot for dramatic effect. People were outraged, and it has been named as one of the most controversial magazine covers ever.

New Media, Same Ethics
The reality is, journalism at its core, no matter the medium, has not changed over the years. Journalism should be a public service, and ethics is an important part of performing that service correctly. The first SPJ Code of Ethics was developed in 1926, and it has served an important role in journalism ever since. It can be difficult in a world of immediacy and ratings, but journalists should keep in mind that their first job is to keep the public informed. That starts with being ethical, no matter the cost.

No comments:

Post a Comment