Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The New Ethics of Journalism in the Digital Age

Michelle Robinson

The Digital Age: How it affects Ethics

It is inevitable to say that the world of journalism is a constantly evolving one. There are constantly more and more outlets being used to relay information, a huge shift from the world of print media that dominated decades before.

 This transformation into the digital age has been a progressive one. Now, information can be transferred online nearly seconds after an event occurs. Tweets are sent, pictures posted, and the transformation of information can be nearly instant. While it’s helpful in a sense that information can be reported and relayed quickly, it also becomes dangerous in the name of ethical reporting and the high standard of quality journalists should hold themselves to.

No doubt with these changes, the ethical codes should transform with them. The shift from print media to digital media has also shifted the importance from independent reporting to organizations valuing transparency. Our value has always been to report truth, minimize harm and inform the public. But in such a public atmosphere, our duty to the community is more important than ever, and journalism has become a dialogue between news organizations and their constituency. 

Citizen Journalism: The Good and The Bad

Now in the digital age, anyone can easily be a “citizen journalist” by reporting about events or happenings on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. This makes the job of a professional journalist a little trickier, because we must sort through the facts and determine what is truth and what is farce.

“When anyone can make journalism, it becomes even more important that its production be ethical and that the community be able to recognize and identify when it isn’t.” 
– The New Ethics of Journalism

Ethical values in the production of news and information become even more important, because our value to the public and our promise of truthful reporting remain ever clear in the blurriness of online journalism.

Remaining ethical is very important to proving journalistic and professional standards to the public. With citizen journalism, it can become very dangerous when ethics aren’t involved and the general public attempts to report the news and facts on their own.

One popular example is that of when the popular sharing site Reddit.com had its users try to discover the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing, and in turn wrongly naming a suspect. This resulted in a witch hunt of the man, and soon after the man was found dead.


Transparency is such a key factor in ethical reporting because we must present all the facts in a clear and understandable manner, while being completely honest about what we did and how we obtained our information. Journalists should be in a constant state of dialogue with the audience and be honest about their efforts. Journalists also need to remain fair and not let any of their opinions influence reporting. 

The audience demands transparency from news organizations because they need to believe and trust where the information is coming from.  Our goal as journalists is to report information as truthfully as possible, and let the audience make their own fact-supported opinions based on the information we have provided.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle I really enjoyed reading your blog post, and took a lot away from your discussions and opinions. I was very intrigued by the first sentence, “It is inevitable to say that the world of journalism is a constantly evolving one”. The truth is, not only is journalism an evolving substance, but almost everything we encounter on a daily basis has evolved in some way.
    Within the last decade things have changed tremendously, and very progressively speaking in terms of digital media. Like you said tweets are sent, pictures are posted, and everything I nearly instant, but these innovations can be relatively dangerous when presented in the wrong hands. I like to think that even with information being relayed so quickly, the reporting end is done ethically and with high quality. However, for everyone to be truthful and honest about what their writing, some people would not pay for the truth so stretching it a little bit, stretches their wallets.
    “Represent truth, minimize harm and inform the public,” I really took to hear this sentence, and really thought about digital media and how it affects everyone around me. Transparency is very hard to find these days, and if it is present, it is just a fragment of the truth. Just like the example you brought about the Boston Marathon “suspect”, and how a site had speculated about the potential suspect. Later on the body of the 22 year old man was found in Rhode Island in the water. I can’t even imagine the thoughts that went through people’s minds, and mostly his. Ethical importance is invaluable when it comes to a person’s life. So, in order for this to shine through, we must find all the facts.
    Michelle, this really was such an interesting and mindful discussion, and I am thoroughly impressed with your work. I will continue to look for your blogs, and incorporate your findings and opinions throughout my education.

    Melanie Allen
    Undergraduate Student
    Drury University