Every day there are ethical decisions that impact the hundreds or thousands of people who watch, read, listen, and/or click on a media source. The foundation for making the right decision starts with ethics classes in college. Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism will use this blog to reflect on ethical questions in the media today.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Something Old, Something New
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
Photo credit: aibob.wordpress.com
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
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.
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.
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
“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.