Thursday, September 8, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Observing the Transformation of Journalism Ethics

Nicole Schneider

In the 1990’s, the Poynter Institute gave birth to a beautiful baby, Journalism Code of Ethics. Over time, these ethics have grown and been shaped by time and events, but essentially stuck to its core. Yet, there comes a time in every young adolescent’s life when they begin to experience changes that transform them. This comes in the form of technology for the blooming code of ethics. Like hormones in the human body, technology has infused itself into media and its ethics, creating some bumps along the road, general frustration, but overall maturity.
A visual representation of the change in ethics, demonstrated by
Taylor Swift. ("You Belong With Me"- Taylor Swift video)

Everyone has that one geeky friend in middle school who all of the sudden became the bees’ knees in high school, but deep down they are still the same ol’ person to you. Well, journalism ethics follow the same format. It’s first important to analyze the old, pre-technology, core journalism ethics.

The Old Journalism Ethics
The first core value to journalism ethics is to “seek truth and report it fully”. This includes constantly informing yourself, the reporter, so that you can inform your audience to the best of your knowledge. This also meant being honest and fair, giving a voice to the voiceless, and holding the powerful accountable. The second core value to the old journalism ethics was to act independently. Meaning, guard the role of a free press, seek varying perspectives without becoming biased, and recognize your individual responsibility as well as ways others can help. And the third core value to journalism ethics was to minimize harm to sources and those affected by the story. 

The New Journalism Ethics
The whirlwind of technology and social media has certainly changed the basic ethics of journalism, but some things remain the same. The new code of ethics still holds truth to be the most fundamental function of journalism and simply add asks that journalists be accountable themselves. The second core value to the new journalism ethics is transparency and the third is to engage community as an end, rather than as a means.

We must first define transparency and community engagement to even begin assessing why transparency replaced independence and why community trumps potential harm. Transparency means being clear, explaining your sources and reporting, and owning up to your mistakes along with quickly fixing them. This gives your audience a reason to believe you and trust you as a reporter. 
Community engagement in the journalistic sense means working with the community, understanding their needs, encouraging people to inform themselves, and minimizing harm.

People's trust in different media outlets demonstrates the growing popularity of digital media. (American Press Institute)

The Transformation and Explanation
The role of independence in journalism ethics died due to the advertisement-based economic state and new media channels which give the audience the opportunity to question things or choose their news from closer sources. This is evident in the fact that “a majority of U.S. adults-62%- get news on social media,” according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. These new factors have made the idea of transparency more necessary because, no matter the media channel or advertisement backbone, journalists need to be clear with their viewers. Community engagement as a goal has replaced potential harm because the idea of community already encompasses protection. Community as a goal is evident in ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ but is deeper than a click of the button, rather it is a sign of being part of the culture.

Just like a growing teen, there is no way to be fully mature without staying true to the basics of you. It is better to simply add pieces of the new, more improved you. In that sense, I recommend the same for the Journalism Code of Ethics. The original ideals of truth seeking, independence, minimizing harm, should not be erased entirely by newer ideals. Instead, transparency and community engagement as the end, not the means, should work with the original Code of Ethics.

No comments:

Post a Comment