Monday, October 7, 2013

Loss of Integrity in News Corporations

Jordan Simmons
JOURNALISM ETHICS
Blog # 2

Loss of Integrity in News Corporations

Can intense pressure by management to reach unrealistic goals or targets cause even the most honest and decent people to break the rules? What can we do about it as PR professionals?  Journalists face the demands of consistently needing to beat the competition and, in turn, sometimes break the most important ethical guidelines. 

When News Corp was busted for illegal activities such as phone and computer hacking it was shut down and left a rippling effect on the news industry.  Corporations shut down as people are busted and/or industries scramble to save their credibility.  But why can’t we just put this stuff to an end? Every day I hear more and more about the public’s loss of faith in journalism, and the effect is that people do not trust the news. 

Today’s society searches for and demands the easiest fixes to problems, and in journalism it is much easier to make up a quote from Joe Smith in cases where no one wants to talk about the story involving the most gruesome details.  However, it is instances like this that cripple the credibility in journalism as a whole.

It is assumed that management should be responsible for insuring the honest relationship between readers and their industry, right? Well, now more than ever, while news organizations are competing to maintain their credibility and communicate their values to their audiences, studies are showing that even the leaders cannot be trusted. In Walker Information’s Integrity in the Workplace 2001 National Employee Benchmark study of more than 2,800 rank-and-file employees around the United States, only 49 percent said they believe their leaders to be persons of “high integrity.”  This is a problem when the stakeholders are putting the blame at the top.  If the presidents of industries cannot be credible then who can be?

PR professionals are independent of reporters, but if they care about their industry's reputation then they should help management to reveal the hazards of having lax ethical standards of enforcement.  Honesty is the best policy, so there are steps to take that can assure honesty is what the public gets.

One thing that news organizations can do is set up a “whistle blower line” so that employees can report violations by their peers.  Another option is to bring in an outside firm to look at the standards and practices periodically to indicate any possible vulnerability.  Setting a clear set of standards and practices that the organization can convey is important as well.

Another possibility to be addressed is the fact that there is corporate everything, and being corporate means being about business.  The business world is about the business world and this means money.  When large corporations switch their focus to money, the honesty and integrity issues quickly slip through the cracks, and we move back to the first issue addressed -- taking the easy way out and making things up in stories or slipping past the ethical codes of hacking.

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