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
The New Ethics of Journalism in the Digital Age
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
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.