Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Just HOW Important are Ethics in Journalism?

D'Asia Leathers

What Are Ethics and How Do They Relate to Journalism? 

Ethics are moral principles that are vital in our society. We make ethical decisions unconsciously every day, and this is something that is crucial in life and in all forms of journalism. Yes, ethical codes may vary here and there, but they always end up boiling down to the notion of only remaining decent, fair and honest. The SPJ Code of Ethics are things that every journalist should abide by. Seeking truth and reporting it, minimizing harm, acting independently and being accountable are the sole jobs of a journalist in a nutshell. Ethics are not something we could ever eliminate. However, I believe it is something that can be shied away from every now and then. 

Three Simple Rules You Must Obey in Journalism

According to journalism professor Mark Grabowski, there are three very important things to remember when dealing with ethics in journalism- the first of these being abstaining from plagiarism. Well, rather than abstaining, simply don’t do it. This has to be the most unethical thing for any journalist, writer, researcher or virtuous person to do, period. Simply taking credit for work that is not your own is simply unacceptable. 

Secondly, it is crucial that you avoid fabrication at all costs. Journalism, for the most part, should be cold, hard FACTS. Quotes should be quoted verbatim, all details of a story should be able to backed up and proven, and that leaves no room for falsehood. 

Lastly, but certainly not least, it is essential to avoid all conflicts of interest. The reason being because with multiple parties, it is easy to side with one and/or disagree with the other, and that is not something you want to be reflected in your writing. Avoid writing about people you know because it is almost impossible to be objective when doing this.

Ethics and Integrity? Do they correlate? 

Being ethical in today’s culture is quite challenging, especially in journalism. Nowadays, with social media and the many other news outlets we have, everything is so fast-paced and it is almost crucial that you’re not only one of the first to put the information out there, but you also provide your audience with the most credible information. There are many biases in media, and journalists should usually remain neutral. Aside from that, audiences crave the “juiciest” form of information, and this is one way we encounter the idea of integrity.   

Although ethics and integrity are seemingly like close cousins, they’re not necessarily cut from the cloth. Personally, I believe ethics is grounded upon rules that must be followed. When remaining ethical, you’re simply trying to stay out of trouble. However, integrity is more of an underlying theory and character trait. 

Integrity is simply about doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. So can people be ethical without having integrity? Absolutely. Many people will do what needs to be done in order to keep them out of hot water. However, being honest from time to time does not necessarily make you an honest person, but honesty from deep within your character does. 

Enforcing Ethical Codes 

So, should ethical codes be enforced? I guess that would all depend on the kind of person you are and your personal beliefs. Just as with any other rule, law, code, etc., it is placed there for a specific reason- primarily in order to protect us. However, the level at which the codes are enforced could be a bit more lenient, in my opinion. All publications do not need to always be solely fact based; people enjoy opinions sometimes, too! There’s no sense in making our world out to be this clean and unjaded place when there is so much color and variety within news, news outlets and audiences.  

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