Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Quick or Right?

Jasmine Lambert

The execution of one thing with the sacrifice of another has been the dilemma of journalists for decades. The common example of this is the idea of getting the story and being first versus following the ethical codes and reporting an ethically accurate story.

With the immersion of the social media age and an increasing belief of the public that they should have unlimited access to all information at all times, journalists are starting to have a hypercompetitive mindset. Some journalists are starting to forget the ethics codes in exchange for the first story and an increased number of Twitter followers. Personally, I would much rather wait a few minutes for an accurate story than get false information a few seconds after the event occurred. These "quick" journalists seem to ignore the possibility of being wrong in order to get credit for being first.

The major protests following the shooting of unarmed Mike Brown by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri were main examples of "quick journalism." Many of the journalists and photographers that reported on the Ferguson event failed to implement the ethical principles when reporting their stories. The public was eager for up-to-the-minute information and relied on journalists to tweet and use social media as a platform for news stories.

The ethical principles mentioned above are the four established in the SPJ Code of Ethics. Those four are to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent. What some of the journalists failed to do while reporting in Ferguson was to remember to minimize harm for all parties involved.

Some reporters put individuals in danger and also gave authorities access to their personal information, creating evidence against them if they participated in illegal activity. Live streaming and tweeting locations after curfew were examples mentioned in Malcolm Harris' article for Aljazeera America as reasons for getting individuals in trouble with the police.

They also lacked discretion on certain stories they reported. I believe that discretion is an important virtue that journalists must choose to use when deciding what and who to put in their stories. Without discretion, many stories would offend and be unworthy of publication.

Another dilemma presented in Ferguson and other cases around the United States, is the idea of how to properly address and report the lives of black people. In today's society, many things can get misconstrued and be considered offensive even if the journalists has no ill will or intent on disrespecting a group of people.

Unfortunately, black people, especially black men, are usually portrayed in a negative light in the media. Most stories involving black people are about poverty or crime.

I enjoyed reading the article about #BlackLivesMatter because it highlighted the idea that black people are more than just criminals and poor people, we are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and millionaires. I was raised in a upper middle class home and my parents taught me that being a criminal or being poor would not be my reality if I worked hard. It upsets me when I do not see reflections of myself in the media and instead see people who do not even reflect the majority of the black community.

In recent years, the portrayal of African Americans has started to change but much more work needs to be done and with, what seems like, back to back cases of police brutality against black men and black on black crime it always seems to push progress two steps back.

Regardless of the setbacks, journalists need to remember and always keep in mind the four principles of ethics no matter what they are covering. This will prevent problems while also fulfilling the needs of the public by providing current and timely information.

1 comment:

  1. Diana Taggart,

    Jasmine, I really liked hearing from someone of color on this issue. (Mine was "The Eye of the Beholder" where I described my white upbringing.) I think you are spot-on with your closing remarks that, if we adhere to the four rules of ethics, we will be okay in choosing what to print and what not to print. Ethics is a hard issue in all walks of life, but following those rules will - at least - keep us out of trouble...maybe.