Monday, September 16, 2013

A Strong Foundation Comes First

Courtesy of

By Kate Schroeder 

As my evening comes to close, and it's time to dive into my first ethics blog post, I find it difficult to formulate an innovative response to Monday's readings about the current plagiarism fiasco in the world of journalism. There is obvious concern that plagiarism has become a huge problem, discrediting professional journalists and tarnishing the career as a whole. From an NPR intern plagiarizing about an alleged execution, to the Boston Globe publishing a plagiarized article, our ethical standards are being compromised. Instead of continuing the discussion of whether there is a problem or not, I think it is important to find its source.

The real question is; who is to blame for this laziness in accuracy, this disregard for the ethics code? Craig Silverman blames the newsroom in, “Journalism's Summer of Sin marked by plagiarism, fabrication, obfuscation” and Lori Robertson blames culture of the journalism business itself in “Confronting the Culture." I find that the blame falls on the education of our young journalists.

Yes, there are new pressures out there inciting journalists young and old to cheat their way to the top. The way the world is consuming news media is changing, but that does not mean that the ethics code should be taken lightly. The discussion of ethics in our profession should be taught with more vigor and enthusiasm. Similarly, professors should emphasize quality over quantity for great journalism.

As stated Robertson’s article, when talking to a group of journalists at Georgetown University, students were more concerned with getting their stories on the front page instead of worrying about the ethical standards. But who can blame some students when all they have been taught in the classroom and as interns is to be cut throat and competitive, no matter what the costs?

And with that added pressure from what is expected of them in school the more pressure there is to take shortcuts. Deni Elliot, a professor of media ethics at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, said the journalism industry promotes cheating. She believes, “Things that award the exact quote … that sends a message that that's what ultimately matters. The more pressure that is put on journalists to produce more, faster, quicker, cheaper, the more the industry encourages cutting corners, which is just another way of saying cheating.”

Along with the pressure to cheat, there is also the importance of stressing ethical practices in college. We are lucky enough to be apart of a program where professors invest their time to build solid ethical journalism students. However, without this foundation, it's easy to loose your balance throughout your journalistic career. The newsroom is changing and there is less time and money to teach young journalists on the job. Catherine Manegold, former New York Times reporter, conquers that, “unless they're bringing with them a strong core sense of ethics, their own personal sense of ethics … it can be a real mess for young people to navigate.”

This is why I believe it is imperative for young journalists to understand the ethical boundaries that define their profession before they go out into the working world. Then maybe they won't have to learn from their mistakes on the importance of honest reporting and maintaining ethical standards.  

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