Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Progressive journalism means becoming anticipatory defenders

Morgan Sigrist

With the technology boom clearly changing the way people obtain their news, journalism ethics must change and adapt as well.

Journalists have become anticipatory defenders as transparency has become the main tool in the journalist trade. Transparency and independence have remained a strong hold of ethics throughout the technological change, as audiences are finding new ways to become editors and commentators in their own right.

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According to the article “New Guiding Principles for a New Era of Journalism” by Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel, the role of the community has changed greatly. Before the introduction of the Internet, the audience was more of a silent bystander, and communication was limited to letters to the editor. The Internet has instead offered audiences an immediate and personal voice in the form of comment forums, blogs and Facebook.  With Internet access in connection to the news, the audience is now able to check facts in stories easier than ever before.

Technology has also changed the way news is presented, just as the role of journalists and advertisers have changed to attract audiences of greater proportions. Advertisers must find new ways to attract audiences to their publishing company, while writers must learn to entice readers with a single click.

Circulation is measured less and less by how many physical papers are delivered and instead by how many clicks their story gets on the company’s web page. The dynamic of audience member to writer becomes a bit more complicated as ideas such as independence become clouded.

Independence and neutrality as a writer become more difficult as editors push for stories that will attract a greater audience and therefore greater revenue. The business often loses sight of its purpose as the drive to survive in the tough economic and fast-changing times becomes greater than the need to produce underreported or unpopular stories.

Not all aspects of community are to be overlooked, as this new symbiotic relationship between the audience and the writers has been created. For example, writers have a more instantaneous response to their content and often get constructive feedback. Another positive aspect of this relationship is the sense of greater accountability that is placed on writers to create not just ethical but accurate news.

All of these ideas culminate to the stronghold of accuracy and our ability to be honest and fair reporters. It is our duty as journalists to provide the public not with just what we think they may like, but what they need to know. We must be seekers of truth for our readers and weed out lies.

As paranoid as it may sound, we must learn to question everything. What motivated a person to say or react this way? Where are they getting their information? By asking these questions and more before the article or segment hits the media stream, we are anticipating questions and thoughts our audience may have and answering their questions before they even thought of them.

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