Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Community is the goal

By Dylan Sams

In The New Ethics of Journalism, a book consisting of essays about journalism and how it's ethical codes have evolved since arriving into the 21st Century, Kelly McBride and Tim Rosenthal write, "the news has never belonged to journalists. It has always belonged to the public."

That may be one of the most important things to remember as a journalist. As much as we like to think about our work as ours, if journalism is to be simplified into one word it would called a service. It's a service to every person who consumes news: online, in the newspaper, in the latest magazine.

The community we serve, on a large scale

In the book, McBride and Rosenthal write about how three key ethical points have changed (or not). In a prior book, worked on in the 1990s, the top three ethical values were to: 1. Seek truth and report it as fully as possible, 2. Act independently, and 3. Minimize harm.

Brought into the present, the two writers say that those three are still very important, but they, save for seeking truth, have evolved into larger concepts. Now, the values are as follows: 1. Seek truth and report it as fully as possible, 2. Be transparent, and 3. Engage the community as an ends rather than a means.

The idea to seek truth is a fairly obvious one. Without truth, journalism doesn't exist, everything becomes fiction. That's very clear, and didn't change. The other two, being transparent and engaging community, are much larger ideas and can be difficult.

A large part of these two new ideas (which really aren't all that new) is tied to the fact that journalists are no longer the only ones creating content about the day's events. Anyone can do it. You're reading a blog, which is one of the reasons that is possible.

With that in mind, it becomes evident that we do have to take care of our work, and that comes with being transparent. By explaining how we came to work on different stories and developed them, it gives the public a clearer picture of what it is we set out to do with that story.

This idea ties in very nicely with serving community as well. By showing how everything works we bring the community into our stories. Journalism is now a forum because of social media sites like Twitter strictly because it gives a voice to people who may not have always had one.

In this way, it is easier to engage with the public, and it makes sense that journalists should do so. Not communicating would be an egregious error on our side. In the book, truth is the leading principle, but it is important to remember why it is we are being truthful — it isn't for ourselves, it's for the people in the community in which we live.

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