Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sacrificing Ethics in Modern Day Journalism

Hannah Mullin

As traditional newsrooms merge with new-age digital platforms the line of ethics has become muddled in a grey area. Who cares if it’s true? discusses the struggle to find a happy medium between the values of old and new as traditional print media is forced to converge with social media and online publications.

Image result for big fat liar poster

Truth and accuracy has always been of the utmost concern to newsrooms however, as print dies out so does the newsrooms flexibility to spend time and manpower on fact checking. Across the board we see news shift its focus from producing truthful, accurate content to being the first publication to gain not only the reader's attention, but also to generate enough traffic for substantial advertisers.

The article “Who cares if it’s true?” made the point that with print journalism, once the story is published there is very little room to retrace your steps and correct any mistakes, however online publications fight to be the first to get content out to readers and “the Internet (will) correct itself. Truth (will) emerge through open trial and error.” This attitude comes at the price of the newsrooms credibility to readers. Buzzfeed has succeeded in gaining the interest of audiences by covering trending topics however the website has not been taken seriously as a news source.

An interesting point the article made was the shift of journalists’ responsibilities as newsrooms reduce staff and the implications that has on values.  Paul Kuehnel, a Record photographer says in  Who cares if it’s true? , “ We say our top priority is accuracy, but you’re a human being and everyone’s doing 20 jobs now.” This diminishes the integrity of not only the individual publication, but it umbrellas to the entire industry, reducing the credibility of all news outlets in the eyes of the reader.

The dilemma arises, how can digital newsrooms remain a credible source for readers if journalists are skipping the fact checking process for speed?

In Confronting the Culture Lori Robertson demands that there needs to be a clear line of what is ethically acceptable and what is not in the newsroom and ,”making accuracy as big a rallying cry as beating the competition.” In order to achieve this goal, it is imperative that when publications merge print and digital, there is a two way street of learning from one another. The values of print journalism need to carry over to the digital platform in a fast and effective way.

Many online publications do not hire a fact checker, because the position is simply not need, the responsibility to uphold accuracy has been shifted to the shoulders of the writer and the importance of truth has been diminished in the process. If emerging digital platforms want to be sources of credible news, they need to realize the importance of spending the time and money to insure the material they are releasing to the public is accurate information.

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