Monday, September 23, 2013

The Slippery, Slimy, Glassy Slope

Emily Beekman

“Integrity” Won’t Stop Them
In our Journalism 3400 course, we hear about integrity; the integrity of the reporter, the integrity of the wealthy newspaper owner, the integrity of the blogger hidden behind a computer screen.  The biggest problem is the word’s definition in regards to the media.  Most journalists will say that “integrity” is not defined clearly.  Why is it so wrong for a journalist to endorse a company?  One might think that it is safely inside the bounds of integrity. 

When a journalist’s power exceeds the need to play by the book, the slope begins to escalate.  If a news anchor is already a wealthy, influential person in the area, what is one more investment, one more endorsement?  Who is really going to stop them?  The only solution is regulation and clear lines being drawn.  In today’s media and society, the word “integrity” isn’t going to stop them.  In order to avoid corruption of journalism, the rules need to be clear.

Photo: "An Introduction to NPR's New Ethics Handbook", Edward Schumacher-Matos

Can You Rewind Time?
The reason the media’s slope is so slippery is because of advancement in today’s society.  There is no way to stop the flow of information, and no way to monitor that flow.  The Sun doesn’t see the wrong in paying for that information, because it’s what the public needs!  So what if they take a few shortcuts… it’s the public’s right to know!  I don’t agree, but I also recognize that we can’t go back to the way things used to be.  There is no longer a clear line between factual, objective reporting (which some already try to rationalize as old-fashioned and not the standard in this new environment); and advertising, promotion or dishonesty.

The slope is insidious and slick as glass; and is just becoming more so.   However, like glass, in this information age the slope is more and more transparent and reflective – so the open media, which sliders use to justify their approach, both exposes their slimy slides and also becomes their accuser!  The opportunist-journalists revealed in David Sirota’s article (2010) illustrate this skid off the course of ethical journalism.  

Ethics and PR
The ethical gray area is as present as ever in the field of public relations.  In a society that is as profit-driven as ours, ethics can get lost in the mix.  Isn’t the goal of a firm to make the best deals, for the best clients, in order to make the most money?  With this, moral questions must come into concern.  But what makes the PR professionals different from traditional journalists is the consciousness of loyalty.  It’s understood that sometimes conflicts of interest happen, but it makes sense from a simple customer service standpoint to avoid what can be avoided.  These ethics are always in mind, causing for hesitation before making a decision to break unsure grounds.  PR is also different from traditional journalism, because whereas traditional journalism is impersonal, going out to the public, public relations has a consultative relationship with the client, built on trust and the consultant’s expertise.

In summary, we, as the new professionals, cannot say we did not see this slide happening.  We are leading this new media age and will be extending it beyond what we even imagine today.  And as journalists, we will be responsible to halt the slide and stabilize the slope.

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