Today's media exists in a society where the public has little trust in the media. With social media and the new found opportunity for citizen journalists, it is a constant battle for media outlets to be the first to break the story. This means overlooking editing and fact checking, which in effect, usually causes more harm than good. After a dicey incident on air, a wise journalist once told my JOUR 1010 class that it is better to be accurate than first.
In the attempt to be first, journalists not only risk their credibility, they walk the tight rope of ethics when it comes to causing harm to the victims and subjects of their stories.
Importance of Ethics in Interviewing
In a breaking news incident, journalists tend to be the first neutral people to talk to the victims and families. They want to be there in the raw of emotions in order to catch the honest truth. It is clear that journalists are not counselors. However, it is not a crime to give people respect by allowing them the time to tell their story.
There is a way to get the story without badgering those grieving. There comes a point when journalist has to ask his/herself whether or not this information needs to be a part of the breaking news.
Media's Power to Manipulate Information
When the media gets hold of information about a suspect they can do one of two things; they can exploit the person and expose his personal life, or they can ignore the information and let the person stay the suspect. By exploiting they suspect, they give this person the attention they initially desired. It is necessary to let the public know of the suspect and who they are, but there is a way to do that without making them celebrities.
The media also has the decision of how to portray victims and families of the victims. It could focus on the tragedy that has become their reality, or it could take the opportunity to get know the family and their life before and beyond the tragedy.