EJ: Chapter 11
This week we have come full circle. We’ve spent the entire semester talking about journalists and their role in society, but now we are talking about the rights and responsibilities of citizens. I’d never thought much about this subject prior to reading this chapter. Often I see the citizen as the customer and my job as the journalist as a balancing act. I must balance my duty to inform with my loyalty to the reader and his/her desires. I don’t quite think the transition which is occurring in journalism and the changing role is as black and white as the chapter presents. Even when it seemed journalists were simply providing information and recounting events, I’m sure they considered the readers. Today the relationship between the press and the public isn’t just about helping citizens differentiate information. I believe a change has occurred, but it is more subtle. With so much information being produced everyday, and so many sources, citizens do have a huge supply. Demand isn’t an issue because everywhere you turn there is news. Although this chapter presents a citizen’s bill of rights and responsibilities, I don’t know that citizens consciously think about these things are have to.
Starting with truth I see an obvious problem. Although the book says a citizen “has an obligation to approach the news with an open mind and not just a desire that news reinforce existing opinion,” I’m not sure that people do this. People read things which confirm their preexisting beliefs and prefer news outlets which share their perspective. Having an open mind isn’t as easy as it sounds or top priority for a citizen.
On loyalty to citizens is also idealistic. While I agree that journalists should remain loyal to readers and put their interests first, I don’t know that this always happens. Sometimes doing what is in the interest of the reader could harm the reputation of the organization which wants to stay in business.
Independence is definitely a requirement of news organizations and maybe the easiest responsibility. I believe most journalists are in this industry for the write reasons, one of which is their inherent interests. I feel like a journalist would have no problem saying someone is wrong or saying they don’t support someone. The issue here becomes management. People from each department of the news organization must prioritize independence and pursue it. Monitoring power goes along with independence and is a goal for every journalist or news organization.
Creating a public forum is definitely the most relevant to today. Here is where we see a big change in a journalists role. With new technology and access, people can engage in a conversation with the media like never before.My hope is that this new aspect of being a journalist works out well in the long run. While I think it’s imperative and beneficial, I do have some concerns. I think opening the door for discussion with an open invite means some people may come with strong opinions who aren’t informed. I wouldn’t want people who are indecent or disrespectful to ruin this privilege for all to engage on social media and comment areas.
Proportionality and engagement are the most challenging in my opinion. With so many different communication platforms and different styles of story telling, it’s difficult for journalists to always give the public what they need when they need it. Sometimes our creativity and dissatisfaction make us want to report a story one way when the public wants it another. Also, what journalists find newsworthy is sometimes not what citizens are interested in learning more about. It’s important for journalists to stay focused on the subject matter and clear in their goals when reporting the news.
Summary of the class:
I have learned so much this semester. I see journalism as a unique industry challenged by constant change. I see my role as a journalist important now more than ever. I look at things now with a different perspective. I think I’m more inquisitive and smart about the news industry because of this class. I’ll be sure to use the principles we’ve discussed and the practices we’ve learned in my job. I’ll use our method of addressing dilemmas, alternatives and reasoning whenever I’m confronted with an ethical issue. In some ways, however, I think this class has polarized me from my studies. I find that I have too strong of an opinion when I’m supposed to be neutral. My heart gets attached to people and stories when I need to remain independent. This class has certainly made me question my fit in journalism and what I want to do after I graduate. I’m leaning more towards working in advocacy journalism or nonprofit work.
DQ: With so much change, how should professional journalists stay up to date on new principles and technology?
Ethical issue of the week:
Julie Hermann, the Rutgers University athletic director, “stood up in front of a class of journalism students a few weeks ago and said it would be ‘great’ if the newspaper died.” A student in the class, who is also the managing editor of Muckgers, a student-run online news start-up whose name meshes Rutgers and muckraking, recorded the talk. Then he brought the recording to the news organization which published it. Although the AD was on record, I don’t think it’s every okay to record someone without their permission. It’s like talking to a wall and using those words to communicate with anyone and everyone. I don’t think it is ethical.
Kristen Morrell, firstname.lastname@example.org