Friday, September 4, 2015

Sticky Ethics Cause for Sticky Situations

DuShuan Headd

In the United States, the country's government thrives off a "checks and balances" system. While it's all dandy that the three branches of the government keep each other in check, who is supposed to keep the government in check?

Insert the fourth estate: the media, otherwise known as the "Government Watchdog."

Journalism is the transmission of information from the media to the public, with the goal in mind of helping the public make better and more informed opinions.

It is a journalist's job to make sure that the information being relayed back to the public is truthful and unbiased. According to the Radio Television Digital News Association, the goal of a journalist should be to empower viewers, listeners, and readers to make more informed decisions for themselves.

Journalists have a special duty to society, as the public are relying on them to be the middle man, and they are supposed to represent the common man. With that being said, journalists must follow a code of ethics and hold themselves to be people of high integrity.

As a United States citizen, one must ask themselves, "If a journalist cannot be trusted to report the facts in a honorable way, then what is the point of having journalism?" In my mind, a flukey journalist is very comparable to a teacher who does not know what he/she is teaching, what is the point of having a teacher?

As a high school senior who knew he wanted to major in journalism, one thing said about the trade has always stuck in my mind. A University of Kentucky professor once told me that journalists have great power, as they control what the public hears, reads, and learn.

While it may be cliche, the ole' saying of, "With great power comes great responsibility." fits the title of a journalist.

Over the summer, I began watching the hit political drama Netflix show House of Cards which features a corrupt politician by the name of Francis Underwood and a young ambitious reporter by the name of Zoe Barnes.

In this fictional tale, Barnes, who just began working at a news station is tired of desk jobs and wants the big stories. Her life changes forever when she meets Underwood, a man who is scorned by the government. 

Having motives of ruining the reputations of those above him with more power, he makes a deal with Zoe that he will leak White House information and top-secret knowledge exclusively to her if she writes things in a certain tone to persuade the public.

Zoe obsessed with moving her way up the ladder in the new station, accepts his deal, and even performs sexual favors in order to gather the information she wants.

In this fictional drama, Ms. Barnes shows poor to very little ethics, stooping to low levels to get information across to the public.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, a journalist is supposed to act independently. In the show, Barnes relies heavily on Underwood and quite frankly is his puppet, doing whatever he says. 

She takes bribes, receives special treatment, and doesn't avoid political activities that compromise the integrity of journalism using undercover methods to gather the information she wants, all which are ethics to a journalist.

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