Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Media Ethics - In Limbo

Malindi Robinson

Our social world and the ways with which we communicate are rapidly changing and advancing. Many question whether this is for the good of our society and the journalism industry, or to the detriment. With digital media establishing its channels of communication via online journalism, blogging, digital photo journalism, citizen journalism, and social media as the "new" news media, many ethical questions are now arising as we question how to move forward in our future of mixed media.

The Pew Project for Ethics in Journalism sites in its study that "a solid majority of respondents (57%) say the Internet is 'changing the fundamental values of journalism' rather than 'transferring these values online.' With the immediacy of the digital age, information is made rapidly available to anyone and by anyone with access, and unfortunately this has often been at the expense of accuracy and ethical practice. With almost everyone having access to the power of being journalists in a sense, it has become difficult to hold anyone in particular accountable for false information spreading like wildfire via the web.

The info-graphic below shows that in 2014 - the World Economic Forum's council agreed that the "rapid spread of misinformation online" was a top ten trend global, that's pretty serious! Along with issues international tensions, climate change, and disparities in income - the dissemination of false news, especially by way of social media is a genuine global concern.  The rush to be "the first" to break news has trumped the fundamental journalistic values of accuracy and transparency.

Top trends for 2014, ranked by global significance by theconversation.com

With rumors, false facts, and propaganda flooding digital airways - "the 'democratization of media - technology that allows citizens to engage in journalism and publication of many kinds - blurs the identity of journalists and the idea of what constitutes journalism," according to the University of Wisconsin's Center for Journalism Ethics Digital Media Ethics article by Stephen J.A. Ward. What constitutes as journalism? Where and when are the ethics of the industry applicable/and or not relevant?

And citizen journalists aren't the only ones guilty of running with a false story, credible sources like the New York Times and The Washington Post have also made such blunders on their digital platform, which is concerning. Though the media in general fulfills its duty of informing the public, "a media that thrives off of speed a sharing is a great potential harm" according to UoW Center for Journalism Ethics. The standards are slipping, what policies can we anticipate being put into place in the coming months?

The innovation of media should not bring with it a lack of carefulness and integrity in reporting and coverage. The public will always deserve the best effort from the fourth estate to keep them informed and up to date. We cannot fall victim to the pressures of the rapid fire of our latest digital technologies and platforms as budding journalists. And as consumers of news, it is our duty to fact-check any breaking news we come across online, especially on social media, before spreading it.

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