Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Principle of It All

Shawn Rudolph

Journalism is a constantly revelatory business. When looking back a few hundred years, the laws and regulations of journalism seem humorous, and when looking back a dozen years, the worries and concerns of journalism seem minuscule, before the exponential development of new technologies.  

With the progressions of technologies and communities being so rapid, journalism will continue to restructure its ethical principles to match the means and mediums of news. The standard ways of reading the news today will not be the standard in five years and certainly not 15 years from now. The ethical principles of journalists will need to adapt alongside the future.

Another mention of the Poynter Principles

The Poynter Institute developed Guiding Principles for Journalists in the 1990s, and redefined the principles more recently to modernize the journalistic approach to ethics. Originally, the principles were: Seek truth and report it as fully as possible, act independently and minimize harm.  

These principles are fine on paper, but technologies like Twitter, BuzzFeed, and The Huffington Post have turned the paradigm of journalism. The updated principles are: Seek truth and report it as fully as possible, be transparent and engage community as an end, rather than a means. 

The new principles incorporated the old principles but stress transparency and engagement to serve the public. Journalists should not forget that journalism serves the public, and they have a right to relevant, open news.

Point of View Journalism:  The difficulty of fear and bias infused news

Fear and bias in news is a modern brick wall audiences need to smash through. Very often, news sources include an apparent bias. The bias is noticeable at a first glance, and does not take away from the usefulness for a target audience. Conservatives will head to the Fox News website in the morning, and liberal college students will watch satirical news clips from The Daily Show or read the news on the MSNBC website. 

However, biased news sources face resistance from partisan viewers when using fear appeals. If I identify myself as a conservative, I can watch a healthy amount of MSNBC bearing some disagreement and without disgust, until MSNBC uses a fear appeal to motivate its audience. I would otherwise (theoretically) acknowledge the bias, but I would enjoy learning the other partisan view, until fear is used as motivation. 

The liberal viewers will accept the rhetoric and tune in to hear important news.  However, conservative viewers will take the fear appeal and question the validity and reliability of the news. In its essence, fear motivates because of danger, and danger comes from a specific source. In the case of partisan news, a liberal news source might use a conservative homefront as a danger to use a fear appeal and appear as an affront to conservatives. 

This predicament does not have a simple solution.  Talk shows and radio show hosts infuse the most fear-based bias in their shows, and Fox News affiliate shows receive a load of criticism.  Point of view journalism sells and informs an audience, but too often it does so at the expense of another through fear.

How can we define communities?

With all the partisan sources of news available, and the multitude of technologies, communities of journalism are rapidly developing. On a common news article online, the article creates a community in the comments section, and when the article is retweeted on a personal timeline, it finds second life in a Twitter community.  

Communities are not as singular as they once were, when news was delivered by paper to the front door every morning. In the modern era of journalism, communities are intertwined, and developing relationships with the first hand audience of news is paramount to healthily reaching the adjacent and tertiary communities. 

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