Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Truth? When?

by: Joseph H.

We have learned that maybe the most primary of all of the ethical responsibilities falling on journalists is to seek and report the truth.  Above all else, the truth is what should matter in journalism.  This is in direct conflict with many articles about how internet media updates its articles.

Image from:

In the past, we had the idea that a newspaper article being published represented all of the complete facts as known at the time the paper went to print.  Journalists had a greater perceived responsibility of reporting honest information before it was seen in print.  A correction would be apparent as it would appear as a standalone published piece in the paper.  But today, with online articles popping up minutes after news occurs, the perceived responsibility to report complete facts appears to be dwindling.  Instead, speed is prioritized so not to be beaten by another media outlet.

Part of the problem is with how updates can be seamlessly integrated into the article, and readers may never even know they happened.  Many ideas have been presented to correct this, such as sending readers notifications when updates happen as noted by Anthony De Rosa in the link below, but nothing appears to have consistently taken root in practice.  The second link, by Kira Goldenberg, discusses ethics in the digital age.

A rule for online news: Errors are inevitable; lack of transparency is not

Journalism Ethics in a Digital Age

While many of the ideas that would fix this issue are very good and would likely work well, there has to be consistency in the industry.  This is an example of how sometimes technology moves more rapidly than practitioners and regulators.  Since there is a lack of consistency in the industry, those who may want to take the more ethical route in making changes more apparent will be in competition with those who do not do so.  This creates an unfairness that puts those who are honest at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

At any rate, it is not right that one could read an article early in the morning, discuss it throughout the day, and then return later at night to see that key elements or facts have been changed.  This only breeds ignorance in that many people will be sharing incorrect information.  What's worse, many would not know to return or would not have the time to return.  They could go on sharing incorrect information indefinitely.  This does not contribute to the informed culture that honest and ethical journalism helps to nourish.

1 comment:

  1. Brittany Oblak

    Hi Joseph,

    WI do agree with you about how it's unfortunate that one could read something in the morning and discuss it all day only to find out they were misinformed much later. However, in order to survive, journalism must change with the times and with this new digital age, speed has become a lot more of a competition factor. Speed has always been a part of journalism, even purely in print. The industry is now in a position where publications themselves must often decide if they are more of a "breaking news" site or a "long-form" type site, I even saw this happen with a website I was employed by as a writer last year. People who want to be speedy aren't necessarily less honest than those who take their time, they may just value something different in the coverage they want to provide. Slip-ups still happen in older forms of media with this type of thing: take for instance the CNN mess-up about the Boston Marathon Bombing. That was on television, not the Internet, and could have happened any time throughout the years. I am not saying that any outlet shouldn't do their absolute best to validate correct information before posting, I'm just saying that with these rapid changes, consumers will have to accept that corrections be more common but hopefully trust that they will always be made when necessary. I agree the industry needs a concise set of standards, but we are still in the toddler phases of media changing into the digital world and until it is a bit more mature, we will have to see a bit more of how it works before establishing a true industry standard.