Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Transforming Journalism Ethics

Alex Westerh

Journalism has transformed more over the last decade than any other period in time, leaving questions about the future unanswered. The line of ethical decision making has been blurred by the advent of the Internet and the ease of publishing. Now everyone can produce their own content and act as their own publisher and editors as well. What is more alarming is this can be done anonymously.

No longer does someone have to be accountable to what they pass off as information. Many modern day bloggers are paid for favorable reviews. Others have a bias and are not transparent with their affiliations. Some blatantly lie.

Image courtesy of leadershipcloseup.com

Despite this grime fact, all is not lost. There is still a place in journalism for good ethical decision making to support good journalism. The basic fundamentals such as truth, transparency and minimizing harm can all be applied to the new era of journalism. The line between “true journalists” and bloggers will continue to blur as time goes on, but no matter who is producing news content, one must hold themselves responsible to their actions.

The public will always seek good journalism, no matter its form. Whether online or in print truth and accuracy will always matter. Those trained in journalism ethics will have a foot up on accurate reporting and thus become more successful promoting good journalism. The people must lead the way in proper journalism ethics.

In 2009, Tim O’Reilly, Harvard graduate and founder of O’Reilly Media, a company that publishes books and websites, took a stab at establishing a blogger’s code of ethics. This code established seven main principles that have much overlap with many professional journalism organization’s code of ethics.

1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
4. Don't feed the trolls.
5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

However, it rests with the public as a whole to demand and support good ethical journalism. I have faith that the values of truth and transparency will take root in the 21st Century. There is an medium between clinging to old values and resisting progress and throwing away all morals as suggested by some.

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