Monday, September 5, 2016

Ethics in Radio & Television: Decoding RTDNA

Katie Lemen

Journalism As a Whole

All sectors of journalism have different ethics and codes that they follow. For example, Public Relations use PRSA and Radio & Television use RTDNA. All journalists have the same goal when it comes to ethics: produce rich and truthful content without disrupting morals.

What is RTDNA?

The Radio Television Digital News Association has developed a Code of Ethics to help guide journalists. They urge journalists to put the public’s interest before commercial, political and personal interests—not telling viewers what to believe or how to feel.

It is noted that the RTDNA Code of Ethics is not a set of rules. It’s merely a guide to help make better ethical decisions.

The Run-Down

The guide is broken up into three major ideas, with sub-headings below.

First major point of the guide is “Truth and accuracy above all”. I find this interesting due to a 2015 poll by Gallup showing viewers do not believe journalists are trustworthy. According to the article, only four out of ten Americans trust mass media. To view this article, click here.

I believe Americans lack trust in the media because journalists rush to put their stories out as quick as possible. Their since of urgency restricts them from fact-checking.

The RTDNA states “Trending,” “going viral” or “exploding on social media” may increase urgency, but these phenomena only heighten the need for strict standards of accuracy”.  This is often overlooked and should be taken into account.

The second key point is “Independence and transparency”.

This is especially prevalent today, given the upcoming presidential election. Sponsor-provided content, political advertisements and editorials should not sway journalists to lower standards of fairness or truth. The RTDNA states “Commercial endorsements are incompatible with journalism because they compromise credibility”. 

The third and final point is "accountability for consequences". 
This is straight-forward, but is often overlooked. Journalists need to be responsible for their stories.

Personally, I think this is the most important point. More Journalists should admit when they’ve been wrong. They also need to be aware when releasing sensitive information. The public will react in all different ways, and they need to be prepared.

Journalists, especially in television, need to have a thick skin. There are always going to be negative reactions to stories.

Why Should You Care?

The RTDNA put together a well-written guide that I believe every journalist should follow, regardless if they are in Radio and TV or not. It is constantly changing and being revised to keep up with technology, making it a great source for ethics.

This guide matters because in order to ensure credibility of our field, everyone should abide by there key points. For the full RTDNA Code of Ethics, click here

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