Ethics have been vital to journalism ever since the first news reporting began. During the early years of news reporting, the main focus of journalists was to remain independent or neutral when writing. This is when news was being communicated directly from a select amount of journalists to a very wide audience. This guideline still remains, however, as the digital era continues to explode, journalism is faced with new challenges and new guidelines to help create transparency and community with the public.
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Then and Now
The Pointer Institute developed Guiding Principles for Journalists in order to give journalists a foundation of what their main ethical values should be. These values focused on truth, independence, and minimal harm to the public in this guideline book. These were the main points because at that time the community did not question the media as much as they do today.
As more and more news outlets have emerged, the public has now come to a point where it has difficulty trusting what they are reading in the news. Many readers fear that what they are reading has been tweaked to sway one's opinion. This is why transparency and community have become more and more vital.
The Digital Era
With technology and innovation on the rise, it is expected that journalism as a whole will continue to change. As technology advances and we have more and more resources at our fingertips, the public becomes more opinionated and more curious. This opinionated community has been much of the reason that many blogs and conversation boards have been created.
Joe Weisenthal, a leading financial blogger for Business Insider, offers opinionated, and sometimes even misleading or wrong, information to his viewers, yet draws about 15 million people to his blog per month. His writing is attractive to people because it is constantly being updated, and Weisenthal makes an effort to keep an ongoing conversation with the community through Twitter.
Consumers now feel that they can have a voice through social media, and it is comforting to them when they can start a conversation with the author of what they are reading. They want to be able to receive information quickly and to respond to it with questions and concerns.
The true definition of a journalist has become foggy at times, because, in the 21st century, anyone really can voice their opinion through social media, and you never know who is going to listen. This creates ethical conflict because the public is able to pick and choose what they are reading. Often times people will read and listen to journalists who embody their same views, and this blinds them from knowing if these journalists are truly ethical, professional journalists.
How to Fix This
The responsibility of making sure that the public is receiving truth and transparency is then purely up to the journalists. It is the journalist's job to engrave ethical values into their work and back up their facts with as much sourcing as possible.
Just because the public now wants their news in a different way does not change everything about journalistic ethics. The same values should still be taken on that early journalists once followed, the goal now is to cater to the new wants of readers. Fast-paced and community-driven journalism is the now. It is very possible to keep ethical journalism alive if journalists commit to feeding information to the public in a way that is quickly accessible and credible.