Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Old School Ethics vs. New School Ethics

Emma Schoonmaker

Over 20 years ago, Poynter created the first set of ethics codes for modern journalists. They highlighted core values that the most credible journalists should possess in their information gathering and reporting, which have been part of journalism's framework for decades. Below is a video illustrating the universal nature of these ethics codes. 

With the rise of technology and the era of information-overload, these guidelines have changed, yet somehow stayed the same. Nothing has been removed or replaced from the original set of guidelines, but there is a digital-age spin on all of our old school values. 

The Old vs. The New

There are three main points listed and elaborated upon in both the new set of guidelines and the old set of guidelines. The first point instructs journalists to "seek the truth and report it as fully as possible" -- this is the main rule of journalism, according to both Poynter and SPJ. The new set of guidelines still tells us to seek the truth, but also reminds us that the truth is ever-changing and we must keep up with all of our different media fronts to stay updated.

The second guideline used to say "act independently" in the old set, but it now says "act transparently." The new set of guidelines is quick to remind journalists that we need to be very clear to the public and to our organization as to how and why any given story was reported. It also reminds us that we mustn't lie or try to hide our mistakes, because technology will always have it's way of revealing the truth.

The third point used to discuss "minimizing harm" for the community, but it now reads, "engage the community as an end, rather than as a means." LSU Professor and Director of Student Media, Steve Buttry, wrote a particularly interesting article on this concept.

To me, the new guideline is telling journalists to be especially cautious in getting the community involved. Modern journalism makes it easy for the community to accuse journalists of falsely reporting and stretching the truth, so involve the community when you are ready.

Tackling Transparency

The most interesting aspect of journalistic ethics is the notion of transparency. "The New Ethics of Journalism," edited by Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel, raises the question about whether transparency becomes easier or more difficult in the new age of technology.

While we aim to always tell the truth and build trust with our audience, the evolution of technology and social media has begun to make it harder for journalists to tell the whole story. Most readers are only willing to read for a couple of minutes before clicking to a new page. Some people in our generation won't digest a story that's more than 160 characters, let alone 160 words.

The current guidelines have actively adapted, not only to fit the new norms of reporting, but also to fit new mediums of communication. Journalists are constantly being challenged to adapt along with these guidelines as they report on newer and upcoming platforms, such as Twitter, Snapchat, etc.

This comic illustrates the speed at which news is being produced today due to social media.
Ethics, like journalism, is largely effected each day as technology evolves and changes in our modern world. One of the most rewarding and impressive things about journalism today is that we are always learning how to tailor our work to our audiences.

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