Monday, February 13, 2012

these five truths I hold to be self-evident.

This week's blogging finds me pondering what I consider to be my five most important beliefs about journalism ethics, so here goes:

(By the way, these are in no particular order. Ordering them would be like... ordering my children in order of most favorite to least favorite; it's just not possible)

1. tell the truth.
Seriously? Could I be a little more obvious with this one? Well, probably not. Everyone knows that a journalist's job is to seek and portray the truth. However, I feel that this pillar of journalism is so often ignored, or at least convoluted, by today's journalists. My story should never be influenced by my personal opinion in such a way that the credibility of the story is either damaged or lost. This segues nicely into my next belief....
2. be objective.
Bill Kovach's and Tom Rosenstiel's book The Elements of Journalism I felt did an exceptional job in defining objectivity. They recognized that everyone will have personal backgrounds and biases that influence their stories, but they said journalists should use a sort of scientific method to study evidence and verification. According to them, "...the journalist is not objective, but his method can be" (83). The section on objectivity really struck a chord with me with just how to be as objective as I possibly can.
3. don't invent.
I felt that The Elements of Journalism tackled this subject very well also. I've never struggled with fictionalizing different aspects of my story, but I can see how it could be a problem for others. But really? Just write a novel in your spare time, leave it out of journalism. If a journalist is inventing different aspects of his story, then he is lying. Oops, that's in violation of rule #1.
4. minimize harm.
Everyone is a fellow human being and should be treated accordingly. I think it's common for journalists to objectify their subjects when writing so as to avoid becoming too personally involved or attached, but that doesn't mean they should be treated as objects. A corollary to this would be to not print a person's name if the story will damage his reputation, etc.
5. be professional.
I'm all about looking professional in a pencil skirt paired with a suit jacket and balanced atop sky-high heels. However, that's not the only aspect of being professional. Being professional means identifying yourself as a journalist, it means not taking bribes or cracking under pressure, it means using integrity, it means using sensitivity when necessary. It means being professional.

Check out these links for some more information on journalism ethics:
What do you think? What would your five truths be?