Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ethics Face Lift

Kate Schroeder

Call me the poster child for the new era of journalism. On one hand I am dreaming of The New York Times, and on the other I am worried about coming up with the perfect tweet or vamping up my online profile. Either I am hearing about how journalism is a dying field or I am being lectured on how to make the perfect blog. Certainly the world of journalism is changing rapidly and we dancing around trying to decide what direction to take it. Do we stick to the same old principles or do we make them new and trendy? What are good ethical practices in this day and age and what are not?

With a changing field, revising the journalism code of ethics is extremely important for future success. Out with the old and in with the new! It's time for a face lift! We are no longer in the glory days of Walter Cronkite or print journalism powerhouses. We are in an era where news is going digital. Where everyone can be a journalist. Where Twitter is the new 6 o'clock news. (USA Today article on Twitter as the 21st Century news outlet.)

Competition between professional journalists is an all out war. Not only are we competing against the neighboring news organizations, but all the bloggers and Twitter handles on the Internet. This makes it imperative to define ourselves by ethical guidelines relevant to the changing world of journalism around us. This is best accomplished by highlighting the importance of engaging the community as an end rather than as a means, which is stated in this week's readings.

Although I agree with this installment, I would go beyond just engaging the community to label this principle as “serving the community." The change from, “minimizing harm” to “serving the community” would give a different tone to our ethics principles. It emphasizes the impact we have on the public and brings our attention to making the best decisions for the community rather than selfish ones.

To me, minimizing harm does not initiate a call to action. Rather it is a yellow stoplight. It alerts you to slow down, but how many people do you know who actually do that? It could also be interpreted in different ways. What is harmful to some might not be to others and most likely you will always harm someone. It also does not define who you are serving or give specific perimeters to follow.

Serving and engaging the community requires professional journalists to collaborate more, which eliminates bias. It requires us to understand the community's needs allowing us to be a voice between the public and the government. It opens the doors for important discussions across the whole community instead of the sealed doors of a conference room at the station. As a main principal, it is the glue that holds all of our guiding principles together. It holds us accountable for our actions and reactions. It helps us be better journalists and it defines where journalism falls in the new era.

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