Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Something Old, Something New

Rachel Sharkey

We all know the traditional “good luck” saying when it comes to marriage. Every bride should wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. But what about ethical journalists? What ethical codes should they possess when media is evolving (quickly) into something we’ve never experienced before?

There are three main principles—some old, some new—that I think every journalist should possess. And the good news is, they don’t involve garters, giant wedding cakes, or crazy aunt Betsey trying to do the worm at the reception.
Photo credit: aibob.wordpress.com

1. Truth

One of the unwavering building blocks of an ethical journalist has and always will be truthfulness. Truth has been one of Poynter’s ethical principles for decades now. It is a journalist’s job to seek and report the truth. But this seemingly concrete principle is stretched and manipulated easily.

As an example, think of a rock and a wave. Someone who is a “rock” in a family is the person that grounds loved ones and holds them tightly together. He or she is the weight that keeps the clan from floating away at sea. The wave is the force challenging that rock both literally and figuratively. It wears the rock down — smoothing it in places and molding it in others. When applied to news, you can think of truth as the rock. Falsity may act as a wave crashing against the truth, but the truth should always have precedence in the end.

2. Community

It is our responsibility to serve the community. This we have learned in class over and over again. It has been branded into our brains as ethical journalists. However, the community isn’t just our audience —they are our path to improvement as well. The public must be given means to provide feedback to journalists and media entities.

We are no longer just their voice—we are their microphone as well. Gone are the days in which “Letters to the Editors” are sufficient means to give the public an outlet for their opinion. As stated in Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel’s New Guiding Principles for a New Era of Journalism, we must “create robust mechanisms to allow members of your community to communicate with you and one another.” Although, as a common theme in journalism, “robust mechanisms” are difficult to define.

3. Transparency

At one point, independence was a principle Poynter honed in on. But now, with media evolving how it is, they have stressed transparency as one instead. Although independence is still important, transparency is taking the gold. One of my favorite excerpts from McBride and Rosenstiel’s essay is the following:

“As a principle, transparency will drive journalists to actions and accountability that independence did not.”

When a media outlet is forced to be transparent and display sources and details concerning a story, it proves to the audience that they are ethical and thorough in their reporting. And with the decreasing confidence of newspapers in particular, see graph below, this ethical principle is essential to the survival of traditional news.
Phot credit: Poynter.

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