Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Establishing Ethical Boundaries

Caroline Glaser

The main difference between a journalist and an average person is all eyes are on us at all times. We have people checking our creditability and the credibility of our writing every day. All it takes is a slight photo edit, mistake or false statement to leave us jobless with a tainted reputation.  

No Strings Attached
As any good journalist knows, no story is complete without proper sourcing. One of the main challenges is to find creditable sources that are willing to talk. Often times reporters spend months building relationships with these sources, but at the same time they have to be sure they are not becoming too friendly. One vital piece of information for all journalists is not to be biased. We all have opinions in life, but the best thing to do when writing is to take a neutral viewpoint.  It is all about finding a healthy balance that will get the story across in a truthful manner with no strings attached.

It is also important that the reporter does not become emotionally attached to the story such as in the case with Anna Song reporting on the missing girls in Oregon City. Emotional ties to a source can interfere with professional duties and lead to a biased story.

What is Too Far?
As a beginning journalist it is hard to determine when boundaries are being crossed or when they aren’t being pushed enough. This is a critical time when editors will have conflicts of interest with the reporters, which could result in the loss of their job. Following Whitney Huston’s death, U.S. gossip magazine National Enquirer published a photo of her open coffin on the cover page. This raised controversy around the world because the photo was against the family’s wishes and was a graphic image. This was a prime example that some journalists have to pay close attention to the line of what is appropriate and what is not.

Choosing the Easy Way Out
There is always an option of producing ethical information or taking the easy way out. One easy way for journalist is to accept bribes. We hear about bribery in the news, sports and in politics all the time, but you won’t hear about bribery more often than in entrainment news. Celebrities are bribing journalists and paparazzi all the time to publish false information or to not publish information they don’t want being leaked. It is much easier for celebrities to do so because they are making millions of dollars everyday.

When I typed bribery into Google every top headline read “Kris Kardashian.” There are countless stories of Kris trying to bribe people to do things for her. In her most recent bribery accusation, she was accused of bribing TV show critiques to give her show a good review. She also was found guilty of trying to bribe reporters with cupcakes and a Tiffany's pen, also in hope of better reviews on her new show.

It is situations like this that make journalists question what is more important to them, their job or a little extra cash. In such a cutthroat occupation editors will not tolerate such behavior. This is one occupation in which you can go out just as fast as you came into the field. Ethical reporting doesn’t leave much room for error and forces us to always be on our toes.

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