Thursday, April 7, 2011

You Can Trust Me? The Desperate Need for Journalistic Integrity

by Andrew Cluxton

It seems to happen much too often these days; a newscast apologizing for stories and segments days after reporting them due to inaccuracies or simply poor fact-checking by reporters. That trend is one that is very troublesome to not only to the credibility of journalism itself, but to the millions upon millions of people who rely on news reporting to deliver informative, concise, and most importantly, truthful stories.

In the article “Self Inflicted Wounds to Media Credibility,” John Seigenthaler shows just how often the media tend to only hurt themselves by publishing stories filled with inaccuracies. That trend only seems to destroy the credibility that many journalists strive for. Seigenthaler says, “… these events have damaged the credibility of professional journalists—the solid rock on which the news media always and finally must stand.” Whether it be fabricated stories created by the likes of Jayson Blair, or simply just not verifying where a document or piece of information came from in the case of CBS and George Bush’s military record.


So why is this trend occurring? I believe that it has much to do with the rate at which information is spread throughout the modern world. Information is shared around the world in the blink of an eye, so it takes absolutely no time to get new information out on a fresh story. The goal for a news organization has switched from being the most trusted news source to being the quickest to break a story. That is how media outlets build reputations in the modern media; having the newest story and being the first to report it.

I also believe the growth of partisan-based media outlets has much to do with exacerbating the problem as well. Partisan bias leads to cognitive bias, in which partisan ideals often overshadow facts. For example, many FOX News viewers will tell you that President Obama was not born in the United States, even though there is a birth certificate for the whole world to see with a simple Google search. Also, a MSNBC viewer may say that Former President George W. Bush had special treatment during his service with the National Guard, or even go as far as to call Bush a “draft dodger,” though no concrete evidence exists. Both examples show how much trust some people have in their respective partisan ideals, and that is a dangerous concept.


Not to say that there is no hope. Those examples are simply cases of outliers. One never hears about the reporter who consistently does a fantastic job, you only hear about the reporters who mess up and make a company look bad. The fact is that scandal will sell and will continue to sell. I believe most journalists follow their proper ethics and beliefs.

And here's Obama's birth certificate taken from

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