Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Adaptation of Ethics Codes

Heather Willard

Ethical principles are under fire by the very people who created them: journalists.

As technology has rapidly evolved over the past 20 years, so has the way journalists approach journalism.  When Poynter first created a set of Guiding Principles for Journalists, they were tailored for the times and not for the current media landscape. 

They started with seeking and reporting truth, continued with acting independently and finished the list with minimizing harm. Now, the rules start out the same way with seeking and reporting truth, but continue with being transparent and finish the list with engaging the community as an end, rather than as a means.

This cartoon illustrates what some people may think about how journalists look at ethics.
Rina Piccolo's Panel Cartoons
Breaking it down

Seeking truth and reporting it fully seems to be rather straightforward, but how we discern and communicate the truth is changing. There are new ways of storytelling that were not possible even a year ago, such as virtual reality, multimedia documentaries that allow the viewer to interact with the story and other visual storytelling methods that are changing how journalists display the truth.

Transparency in journalism has eclipsed independent action mostly due to the increase in communication between the creator and the audience. In past times, independence, or not having a slant towards a certain point of view, was considered the hallmark of good journalism. But places like the Huffington Post are known for their slant and have done great journalism following their bias. Now, transparency, or knowing what sources, slant and bias a story is created under, is considered good journalism by the community that reads them.

Journalism has traditionally seen community or networking as a means to an end, instead of being the end goal. Likes, comments and subscriptions have been ways journalists and creators have tracked the engagement on their content. Journalism is going to be successful in the new age by engaging fully with the community or creating and supporting new communities by each news organization.

Where does this leave journalists?

Journalism is changing, that much is for sure.  New ways of sharing news, or disseminating what is news and what is truth, has created some cool ways of digesting news and at the same time new communities.
Philip DeFranco has created his brand for news through Youtube and a community grew out of it.

When the news available for consumption is not independent but transparent, it is then the community's job to hold journalists accountable. Is it true? How do you know? These questions should be at the forefront of every person consuming media and especially news. If the community does not expect a high standard from the news outlets, then the news outlets will not hold themselves to the standard that they should be.

Where are we now

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater and entirely losing the ethical principles that have guided journalists for decades would be foolish, but some people are doing that. These new principles of community, transparency and above all truth are workable, useful and can be adapted as technology further challenges us.

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