Tuesday, November 17, 2015


T.L. Schilling

Whether or not you believe in the bible and its ten commandments is not relevant to this conversation, but what one of those commandments states is. It is the one that says “Thou shall not lie” or “Thou shall not bear false witness”. In life, we lie for a myriad of reasons; self preservation, we believe what we are saying is the truth and some people are even pathological liars. Whatever the reason people lie, most social protocols state that it shall not be tolerated and needs to be met with repercussions.

Below are a picture and a quote from Edward R. Murrow, a celebrated American journalist who first came to prominence doing radio news broadcasts during WW II. He is generally associated with truth and integrity in journalism. His quote is as applicable today as it was back then.  According to the Radio Television Digital News Association  website, they have been honoring “outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards since 1971”, so the precedent is there.
Courtesy of likesuccess.com   
                 Courtesy of likesuccess.com                         
In a world that is predicated on being the best and doing things first, there is all too often a sacrifice of truth. There needs to be zero tolerance for lying in any shape or form, period, end of discussion, right? I mean this is what we have been told our whole lives. When we were growing up and you got caught lying, you got in trouble. As an adult and you lie in court (and get caught), you are looking at possible jail time as a result. In journalism, you print a retraction, amend the story and apologize for your errors.

I find it absolutely absurd that a L.A. Times article entitled “A rule for onlinenews: Errors are inevitable; lack of transparency is not” says in part that; the onus is on the readers to return to or check back in with an article for any updates or corrections. I don’t ever remember reading in a newspaper that I needed to keep reading it for the next few days in order to check for errors in the previous editions. Any news stations ever ask to tune back in for the next several days to make sure they didn’t make any mistakes in earlier shows?

There should not be a different set of truth in journalism values for digital and print style media. I suppose if you subscribe to the theory of the “white lie” being acceptable from time to time that may be alright for you. In an article by Eva Rykrsmith for quickbase.intuit.com there are even up to seven different types of lies to choose from to suit your needs. Of those seven types of lies, the only one that has any justifiable reasoning behind it is to lie in error, by mistake. 

Courtesy of quickbase.intuit.com
Mistakes are going to continue to happen as long as there are people around to disseminate stories to an audience, but it is how they are dealt with that makes the difference to people. Transparency is always going to be the best policy in journalism because if you tell a lie once, all of your truths will come into question later.

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