Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Strong Ethics Make a True Journalist

Ciara Sebecke

In a world where anyone can be a "journalist," ethics are more important than ever. Producing ethical journalism is no longer simply for good karma, but it is impossible to avoid in the digital world. The same core values of truthfulness and transparency are the core of journalism ethics today that they were in the traditional news era, but they are translated in a completely different way. Practicing good ethics in journalism may be what distinguishes true "journalists" from everyday writers and bloggers sharing their opinions.

Transparency and Consistency Are the Keys to Success 

The state of the news media is completely different than it was 20, 10 or even just five years ago. Today, citizens consume news on a myriad of different devices and formats. With the rise of social media, internet dwellers have access to breaking news and even celebrity gossip faster than the New York Times can snap its fingers.

Any single human with access to a keyboard and the internet can post their opinion, their analysis of an event or thoughts on any given topic and label it "news" or "journalism." But with all of these resources at their fingertips, why do consumers keep coming back to traditional news sources such as ABC News, NPR, or even Cosmopolitan and Vogue? The difference is that these sources practice transparency and consistency.

Consumers Determine the Success of News Sources

Whether they are consuming news online, in a newspaper, on a podcast or on their tablet, consumers know what to expect from the more renowned news sources and know where the stories are coming from and how they were produced. Today's news environment is truly democratic in the sense that readers will not put up with bad journalism practices. It is literally impossible to avoid transparency because the public will expose you for immoral actions.

This is no longer a few-big-corporations-to-all business. Big news companies are on the same plane as consumers in an environment where everyone's voice can be heard. With platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and online reviews, it is impossible to hide unethical actions as a business. No matter how perfect your website may look, with one Google search your readers will discover a negative public opinion. A true journalist or producer of news knows this, and will continue to practice good ethics and complete transparency. It is okay to have slightly opinionated pieces, but any hidden biases will get ridiculed and exposed by the public.

Using Transparency to Differentiate Yourself as a News Outlet

In such a competitive news environment, readers keep coming back to sources that are transparent and consistent. But what does consistency mean for a journalist? Readers appreciate knowing what to expect from their go-to news sources. For example, a reader of the Huffington Post would not go to the website and expect to find an article endorsing Donald Trump. A reader of Cosmopolitan would not open the magazine and expect to find an article on abstinence. A reader of the New Yorker does not expect to find Sailor Moon quizzes and a reader of Buzzfeed does.

These publications have used transparency to build their brand and differentiate themselves as a news source. None of these news sources rely on objective news and straight facts (except maybe NPR), but they are still seen as ethical and reliable due to their transparency and strong ethics. They each have their own specialty and their readers expect it.

The world of journalism is constantly changing, and the news industry has finally accepted the fact that it will never be the same. With new ways of distributing information and an open forum, comes new ethical dilemmas and standards. No one can predict what "journalism" will mean in 20 years, but it will undoubtedly be whatever the public demands.

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