The first amendment is used as an example of freedoms which allow for people to provide information and thoughts without censorship due to oppressing factors, Freedom of Speech, religion, assembly, and press are the basis in which journalists can provide breaking information without threat. But what happens when freedom of speech becomes slander, when opinions of journalists are in fact not validity but a definition of character or position? There is a fine line between freedom of speech and breaking the code of journalistic ethics and depending on the story and the people involved those lines can certainly blur for the journalist involved.
Understanding the Difference and Respecting the Code
Along with the freedom American journalists have in reporting a story they also have a code of ethical conduct they must follow to ensure not only accurate information but information that is to the point and still has a sense of couth about it regardless the personal or popular feelings of the subject. Personal feelings need to be put aside, and objective writing needs to be provided for the reader to make their own determination of feeling for the story. Associated Press journalist Tony Rogers provides information on the importance of ethics in journalism in an article for ThoughtCo. Rogers states that “the press in this country is not regulated by the government. But that makes journalistic ethics all the more important, for the obvious reason that with great power comes great responsibility.” (2017) He went on to describe objectivity and ethical writing when it comes to being a sound journalist, he ended his interview with his final thoughts on where ethics in journalism is heading and simply stated “I don’t think objective news coverage is going to disappear anytime soon.” (2017) Statements like these justify the fact that a journalist is the middleman in the world of news, that the interpretation of their writing can have major impact on the masses, we see that in recent political events that have occurred over the last decade. These types of examples should be a guideline of what not to do when reporting on a controversial topic, sides are not an option and objectivity may not be popular, but it is what is right, what is the duty of a journalist.
The Straight and Narrow
So, we know why ethical conduct and objectivity play a vital role in journalism, and we also know we have our own demons to hold back when playing the role of a journalist, but humanity happens and the condition we all are subject to can sometimes play a part in mistakes that are made. Kathryn Shulz gave an interview to a journalist from Poytnter about the lack of responsibility journalists play when making mistakes, ““You can do all the legwork of saying ‘We spelled Kathryn Schulz’s name wrong,’ but that doesn’t get you anywhere near the deep and substantive wrongness that we sometimes commit in the field,” Schulz said by phone. “We have this formalized mechanism for dealing with very small errors, and they’re not necessarily trivial, but we don’t have any mechanism whatsoever for ‘Oops, we blew it, we missed the entire point’ types of errors.” (2010) The truth is we all make mistakes, we all can become swayed, and we all are human after all, right? But there is a responsibility that needs to be accounted for and a simple retraction isn’t going to cut it, sometimes its intentional unethical behavior sometimes its human error but there should certainly be accountability for mistakes that are made.
- Rogers. (2017).Why Journalism Ethics and Objectivity Matter. Retrieved fromhttps://www.thoughtco.com/yes-journalism-ethics-and-objective-news-coverage-2073747.
- Tenore. (2010).Why Journalists Make Mistakes & What We Can Do About Them. Retrieved from https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2010/why-journalists-make-mistakes-what-we-can-do-about-them/