Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Moral Obligation of News

Kelly Barrett

Journalism is a force, and behind any powerful force is the work of innovative and ever-changing intellects. But why is it so powerful? 

Journalism is where the world gathers news and from news is where we first form relationships, friendships, and judgments about likeminded people. According to the article, "The Elements of Journalism," by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, people crave and seek information, and without the ability to reach it, people become apprehensive of the world around them and incapable of reaching their full potential. News has always been something that is apathetically vital to our wellbeing and considered to be somewhat apart of our genetic makeup. Kovach and Rosenstiel mention an idea called the awareness instinct. 

“They need to know what is going on over the next hill, to be aware of events beyond their direct experience. Knowledge of the unknown gives them security; it allows them to plan and negotiate their lives. Exchanging this information becomes the basis for creating community, making human connections.” — Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. 
News and media influence and effect every aspect of our lives and culture, thus, it is imperative for there to be a beneficial and mutual trust between the world and it’s news journalists.

The Disconnect

In "The Elements of Journalism", Kovach and Rosenstiel discuss the disconnect between the public and journalism which truly started in the 80’s. This was a result of the failure for journalist’s to live up to the values that the public had expected from them. A corporate approach on media companies began to take away from the core values that the public once trusted in its journalists. According to History of American Journalism, the 80’s “experienced rapid deregulation under the Reagan administration, which made new business developments possible. As a result, the broadcast industry began to focus more on the competitive nature of the industry and less on concepts of the public interest and public service.” There was and is an expectation for news to be independent and reliable and this was a time when we began to see an extreme decrease in this.

Today, there is extreme one-sided news coverage and often times, people will immediately discredit a story based on the network or person it is coming from. One inaccurate story can deter people from ever putting trust into that network ever again. According to a survey conducted by the American Press Institute, one-sided or biased stories are the number one reason why Americans would begin to trust a new and information source less.

The end goal of news journalists is ‘to serve the general welfare by informing the people,” according to the American Society of News Editors. It is up to these journalists to decide exactly what that means, to decipher what the public both need and want to know. This is where morality comes into play. News outlets often struggle to decide if a picture or video is too graphic or sensitive for the public to see. But here lies the internal struggle- it is important news and therefore important for people to see. In 2014, the New York Times posted an article titled, “Why Violent News Images Matter.” The article brings about a lot of striking positions on the matter.

Photographer Christoph Bangert begs the question: “How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation—a picture—of a horrific event, while other people are forced to live through the horrific event itself?”

I believe this is something news outlets often think about themselves. If it constitutes news, then perhaps people should not only see it, but feel something about it too.

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