Every day there are ethical decisions that impact the hundreds or thousands of people who watch, read, listen, and/or click on a media source. The foundation for making the right decision starts with ethics classes in college. Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism will use this blog to reflect on ethical questions in the media today.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Who to Believe?
When it comes to transparency, journalism isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind, though to journalists, transparency is everything. In our new-age, media-driven society, the importance of transparency and keeping an ethical code is how truth-seeking journalists can distinguish themselves from the everyday Facebook blogger, to the scandalous headlines of the National Inquirer.
Ethical codes haven’t changed much in the past 20 years, when Poynter released its ethics code in the early 1990’s. “Seek truth” is a constant, and the most important rule for all journalists, even today where everything you see is considered “news” and most of it isn’t exactly truthful. Social media is the frontier of media and how news is distributed. Through these channels, it is easier than ever for anyone with basic knowledge of computers to release their thoughts into the world for all to see and take into account.
Most articles you read through seem legitimate, correct spelling and decent grammar. You think, “A true journalist with the desire to send me the truth and only the truth definitely wrote this,” and take what they’ve told you into your brain to process and relate back to for the rest of your day.
People digest what they read and let that influence many aspects of their lives, whether it’s the weather for the day or a terrorist attack in a far away country. If journalists, and others, aren’t following a similar ethical code, the public isn’t going to know where to turn or who to believe.
Keep it in check
Transparency in journalism is how journalistic decisions are kept in check and what democracy still thrives on today. Democracy and journalism exist because the other exists. Public knowledge of all happenings helps people in their decisions, one perfect example is in the 2016 election. Transparency has been a major topic throughout this election, with both candidates being abnormal to the historical norm. With any election year, you get dramatic advertisements bashing each side of the election, like below:
How transparent is this ad? And what does it say about the side sponsoring it? This is considered journalism, informing society of what’s happening today. Can we trust these ads? Sure, many people do, but don’t look past the transparency of them when discussing others and lack of when the tables are turned on they themselves. This is where journalists come in and fact check, analyze and reiterate what they found as the most truthful.
It's not that easy
It would be so easy to call yourself a journalist, make up sources and let your ideas run free, but putting in the work to be ethical is where a true journalist is found. Following a set of ethical guidelines should be at the forefront of any journalist's mind when they sit down and start to inform the public, no matter how media based our society gets.
Ethics and moral codes should be the ground level where all journalistic writings begin. Transparency goes hand-in-hand with this idea of ethics and without these two powers working together, journalism would cease to be a source of valuable information.