|Courtesy of nymag.com|
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Media Code of Ethics: Why I Will Never Be a Journalist
When I came to the famed Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism just a young lad, I had dreams of becoming the next Walter Cronkite. My dreams quickly faded as I watched my faith in Journalism as a whole die through several weed-out classes and a strict diet of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
In these classes, we took a look at many aspects of the journalism: the future, the job prospects, the legal side, and most recently, the standards and codes of ethics. When I was reading over theSPJ and RTDNA codes of ethics, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. In the present era of click-bait and “report first, ask questions later” journalism, the codes read more like a satirical bit from The Onion than an actual moral manifesto.
To me, there is no question that the ethics of the media have been slowly dying over the past few decades. The reason for this is twofold. First, the dawn of 24-hour news stations has not only created a need to fill time slots with complete fluff pieces and partisan news analysis, but the competition to break stories forces many outlets to reports conjectures before gathering all of the facts of a groundbreaking story. Take, for example, the shooting of 70 people at a summer camp in Norway in 2011. When news of this horrible attack broke, many American news stations initially began throwing around the names of any Muslim group that could potentially be responsible for terror. After a few hours of guessing, it was revealed that the actual culprit was Anders Behring Breivik, a domestic terrorist, and anti-Islam right wing extremist.
The second reason for this moral depletion is the decline in print media at the hands of digital media and the over-saturation in the market. The consequence of these phenomena is strong competition for clicks and readership. This competition leads to sensationalized stories that damage reputations and skew the facts, click-bait that numbs the minds of the public, and promotes a guilty-until-proven-innocent environment. The almighty dollar has eclipsed the truth in the era of New Journalism.
I believe journalism is one of the most necessary industries on Earth. Reporters have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the public informed, many times doing a great job keeping the government in check (see: Pentagon Papers, Watergate scandal, and David Graham Phillips’The Treason of the Senate). However, I think too much of the modern media’s attention is put toward pushing agendas and catching politicians sleeping around.
It is for these reasons that I decided to take the opposite career path of journalism: Public Relations. It is the job of a good PR agent to mitigate any negative damage done to his or her clients by over-zealous reporters. The need for good publicists is skyrocketing as media has become so all encompassing and, in many arenas, unethical. The media is a watch-dog for the government, big business, and any powers that be, but in a generation of over-saturation, partisan news, and irresponsible reporting, sometimes a watch-dog needs its own watch-dog.