Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Future of Ethics in Journalism

Victoria Souza

New Guiding Principles for a New Era of Journalism Reading Reflection

Overall, what I gather from this reading is that journalism’s code of ethics needs to change as technology and the platforms of journalism change. Journalism’s core code of ethics established in the early 1990’s was a good blueprint for future journalism, but it could never have anticipated how rapidly and how broad communication technology would grow. Therefore, while the expanded core code of ethics as described in the introduction attempts to bear for the future, it cannot predict just exactly how journalism and the ethics there of will change.

“The digital age has transformed how journalism is created and delivered.” This quote really brings to mind the concept of “citizen journalism” that is so prevalent in our media today. The average citizen and reader now has access to different forms of technology in which they can publish their unprofessional stories and/or opinions. Some say citizen journalism is challenging professional news networks and will someday drive them out of business, but in my opinion, I see citizen journalism as a professional tool. By creating this two-way conversation between reader and reporter, we open up the door to collaboration. However, citizen journalists will never feel obligated to follow the same ethical codes that professional journalists follow, so it's important that professional journalists steer these future collaborations and conversations into a direction that will benefit the public and provide the truth in a trained and ethical way.

The first chapter stressed the complicated pursuit of truth and the ability of journalists to investigate intense stories. It is true that journalists have made great strides in exposés – Watergate, the Boston Church Scandal and more, but recently, some news organizations have become sloppy with facts. These days it seems as though news organizations are more interested in being first on a story rather than being 100% correct in all their facts. “Much of how we discern and articulate truth is changing.” In the clip below from the show "The Newsroom," we can see the effects of citizen journalism on news and ethics at play within the news organization striving to find the truth before releasing a story. 

The idea that transparency has replaced the core ethical concept of acting independently was really stressed, not only in the intro but also in the second chapter. With transparency, our goal as journalists is to tell the audience how and why we do things so they “won’t assign spurious motives to our actions.” This new concept was eye-opening in the sense that it portrayed how little trust consumers have in the news in this century. “Transparency require those who produce news to anticipate how they will explain their actions before they act.” While this standard does help hold reporters accountable for keeping their stories as accurate as possible, it is clear to see that journalists begin writing their stories on the defensive, as if they know that readers will question their stories despite the content. Thanks to social media and advancing technology, readers and journalists can now have two-sided conversations as mentioned earlier. While I stated before that this can be a positive thing, it also opens up the door to skepticism and outright criticism of stories. It can keep some reporters in check knowing that they will be fact checked as soon as their story hits the internet. However, it does leave me concerned knowing just how little trust there is between readers and news outlets in the 21st century. Readers are no longer viewing news as a check on politics and the government, but rather as the driving force behind what is important to the government – if its reported on and it gains public interest, the government will take interest and vice versa. Also, we can see the effects of transparency in advertising. “Advertising based economic background of journalism has affected independence.” Now, in order to be transparent in journalism, you must clarify if the story is sponsored or is an ad or, you lose the reader’s trust if it is found out, otherwise. A story or ad can even seem biased without reason if you don’t clarify that it is sponsored. I like the idea of transparency being used as a tool to build credibility, but it almost makes one nostalgic for the trust that readers once had in news.

Lastly, the final chapter discusses community as a goal. As I touched upon earlier, the idea of citizen journalism creates this two-way conversation. New social media platforms and growing technology definitely have created a community for 21st century news that did not exist before. Twitter users can help tip off journalists and create a community of news that was not available before. However, the ethical dilemma here is that the majority of twitter users do not follow the journalism code of ethics, leaving a barrier still between citizen and professional journalism.

In the end, as journalism platforms change, so will the ethics of journalism. We can try to predict how based on the current state of journalism, but with the rapid expansion of citizen journalism, its hard to tell just how ethics will play a role in our news in the future. 

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