Monday, October 31, 2016

Dealing with Election Politics: The Ethics of Journalistic Opinions

Blake Dava
Image result for trump lying comic

When I turned 18 back in spring of 2014, I remember the excitement of realizing that I’d be able to vote. I felt pride in knowing that when it was next time to call forth a new president, I’d play a part in his or her election.

Now, I’m just bracing for hell to come to us once its gates burst.

As a citizen, I suffer from the slander and falsehoods that have been coming from the presidential race. During the primaries, I listened along with the debates and fact-checked where I could to try and pick out my ideal candidate.

I did not pick Trump. Or Hillary.

But now I have to make a choice and as a citizen, I’ve made my peace with that. I’ve worked hard to continue to stay informed and will continue to do so. But I believe I’ve made my choice, and since, I have I’ve removed myself (at least partially) from the chaotic mess that is this election.

But as a journalist, I’ve kept my eye on the coverage both candidates are getting, and it’s been pretty disgusting. But I’m incredibly proud of the piece The New York Times put out blatantly calling Trump a liar, because he is. They could have taken a safer route and written a “he said, she said” piece, as The Atlantic pointed out, but instead NYT openly challenged Trump to his own game.

As the Atlantic so wonderfully described, the election has always been a dance between the nominees and journalists, each holding a mutual respect for the other.

Candidates stretch the truth, but try not to be too blatant about it. Candidates appeal to bigotry, but subtly. In turn, journalists respond with a delicacy of their own. They quote partisans rather than saying things in their own words. They use euphemisms like “polarizing” and “incendiary,” instead of “racist” and “demagogic.”

But with Trump’s ever growing claims of illegal presidencies, war support and other factual inaccuracies, the role of the journalists has become even more treacherous. If a journalist simply regurgitated whatever Trump said, they could always claim he just “said it” and not back it up. But publishing information that isn’t true without saying it's false crosses into a moral gray area. So what should we do?

Well NYT wants to fight. And I agree.

Jack Shafer from Politico Magazine says “to denounce balance is a heretical act for a journalist,” but it’s equally necessary to adhere to the journalism code of ethics and prevent deception in news gathering. 

According to the NTDNA, “Staging, dramatization and other alterations – even when labeled as such- can confuse or fool viewers, listeners and readers.” Rehashing false claims made by either candidate with still wrongly influence readership, even if done in the most objective way possible. And know, almost for the first time, journalists are prepared to tear down the precedent behaviors to prevent this.

It’s a dangerous road to go down, and journalists will have to be intensely aware of what they report and what they condone, but at least so far there’s been proof that it can be done correctly.

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