Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Advancement of Journalism and Ethics to Preserve

Emily Mueting

As journalists, we are “stuck between two polar impulses: to cling to tradition so tightly we resist progress, on the one hand, and to throw away the most important values in journalism and charge blindly ahead thinking everything has changed on the other” (McBride, 1).

Many of the new forms of media are challenging what we have in the past established as ethical codes. Blogging, tweeting and apps are only a few of the newest forums of journalism. What used to be ruled by a few trained journalists, i.e. the newspapers, television stations and radio stations, are now just a portion of the journalism world as a whole.

Bloggers do not need to be trained journalists. Actually most of the time, they are average people who are not trained to be journalists. They do not take classes in law and ethics. They do not know how much journalists stress the importance of being fair, truthful, accountable and independent, etc., but that doesn’t mean they are not going to be unethical.

From the Left, a wordpress blog, posted a code of ethics that is designed specifically for the blogger. It is based off the Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics but was modified for the online blogging world.

The problem with this code of ethics is that many bloggers will continue to write whatever they want, without ever reading the code of ethics.

Twitter is filled with people of all walks of life, some intelligent, some not so much. Just last night, "trader" not "traitor" was trending throughout the U.S. thanks to a baseball draft and Jacoby Ellsbury, who apparently has taken up Wall Street or become an employee at Trader Joe’s (I am not sure which path has to do with his baseball trade).

All jokes aside, there are plenty of ignorant people on Twitter, and most of them are not trained journalists, yet they, by some standards, commit acts of journalism multiple times a day. If they are not being ethical in the tweets they send, are we lacking in the ethics we stress in journalism? 

And it goes both ways. Journalists who are trained and educated are making ethical mistakes on the web. Many times, tweets are retweeted without fact checking and verification. That is not part of the ethics of a journalist. Also, many times, journalists are antsy to tweet out the news so fast that they make mistakes in their reporting. According to the SPJ code of ethics, truth is a huge value to a journalists, yet over and over again, journalists report news that is false, all because they didn’t fact check or verify before hitting the button.

Journalism is rapidly advancing and changing, but hope is not lost. If we stress the importance of keeping our core codes of ethics strong, trained journalists will continue to be ethical reporters, and many of the non-trained journalists will either catch up and be ethical also or risk losing readership to the blogs and Twitters that have proven themselves honest, ethical and reliable.

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