EJ Chapt. 10: Journalists Have a Responsibility to Conscience
The anecdote in this chapter about Jayson Blair was quite alarming. Like many investigations, hindsight creates a bias that is frustrating. How did people not pick up on the discrepancies between Blair’s stories? How was it not obvious that he was fabricating stories and plagiarizing information? These are questions many of ask would ask now that we know the truth. However, nobody was asking these questions when the stories were published. Blair went unpunished for far too long and got away with a lot. I believe todays multimedia nature of journalism and heightened conversation between a journalist and his/her audience make it easier to detect work like Blair’s. Information can be told quickly and verified quickly. Within moments of an event occurring or news, journalists can report what they see and hear. It’s easier to see two different stories revolving around the same event. It’s easier to prove things with documentation on the internet. Although speed and the ability to reach many people can create challenges, I think it promotes honesty for the most part.
I found it interesting that this chapter mentioned the central ideas of journalism which many of us were first attracted to when choosing this field. Inequities, connecting people and creating community are all reasons why I was attracted to journalism. I think it takes a certain person to enter this profession and certain strength to hold true to these principles. Many journalists start their careers with lofty ideas and an idealist view. They want to change the world through their reporting and make the world a better place. Then they realize their editor values hits on a webpage or stories that make people happy. While these things are one way of measuring success, they certainly aren’t the way most journalists would measure the quality of their work when they first begin. It’s important to find a balance between writing stories that matter and writing stories that count. Stories that matter may not be the most popular or reader-friendly. They may not receive the most views or hits on a website. They will inform readers and shed light on issues people need to understand. They will introduce a different perspective to a controversial topic. Finding a balance between these goals is key to feeling success and reward.
Two Short Articles On Advocacy Journalism – discuss the shifting notions of ethics here:
Journalism for Action: http://huff.to/1iXll6d
This article presents a shift of ethics that I very much like. It’s called action journalism. It allows journalists to report a story/issue and tell readers what they can do about it. This is the type of journalism I need to practice. I often get frustrated after reporting an interesting story that simply ends. I tell what happened and who said what then that’s it. I feel incomplete and I don’t feel like I finished the job. With action journalism, there’s no political agenda. It isn’t activist journalism. It’s just more than a regurgitation of facts and information. Many people would argue that action journalism is both unethical and irresponsible. They would argue that journalists should present the information and leave it at that. A journalist who presents optional ways to get involved or ideas to participate is overstepping his/her boundary. Action journalism certainly presents a different set of ethics than traditional journalism, but I don’t think that makes it unethical.
In Praise of the Almost-Journalists: http://slate.me/1iXlHda
This article presents advocacy journalism. This type of journalism is often produced by people and groups who advocate for an issue. The reporting is extremely thorough and often done by experts within the field. People who aren’t in favor of this type of journalism would argue that it’s unethical because the reporters are biased. They present their case and often do not present the alternative view. They also have a personal interest in making people believe what they are saying which could cloud their judgement. I think this is still journalism. In fact, it’s the type of journalism I’m leaning towards practicing myself. Today, I think being an expert is more valuable than being a generalist. I’d rather read a report from someone who has dedicated their career to what they are writing about than from someone who has spend a couple days learning about the topic.
Do you think it’s possible for a journalist to remain idealistic with their goals while still having professional (monetary) success?
Ethical Issue of the week
This article is about the ethical issues with having George W. Bush be interviewed by his daughter for a news story. Jenna Bush Hager is a special correspondent for NBC and was talking to her dad about his series of paintings. Although the story was a hit, people question the ethics behind the conflict of interest. Organizations like the Society of Professional Journalism said it was unethical and violated their standards. Although conflicts of interest should always be avoided, I think they are okay with stories like this one. Jenna wasn’t interviewing her dad about politics or the war, she was talking to him about art. If anything, their personal relationship bettered the story and the dynamic between the interviewer and interviewee. I think it’s important to remember that there isn’t one standard set of ethics which should be applied to any and all stories. Some stories like this one are light-hearted and fun.