Monday, September 28, 2009

Social Responsibility Theory of the Press.

The present day news industry is having trouble following the Social Responsibility Theory of the Press because of factions influencing the reporter and media organization. These factions influence news so that they are benefited as opposed to the citizens reading the paper.
The Social Responsibility Theory of the Press is rooted in six basic functions, very similar to the ones laid out by the Libertarian Theory. These six functions of the press as told by author Theodore Peterson are: providing information and public discourse on public affairs; providing information to the public allowing it to be free and self-governing; being a watchdog against the government for the benefit of the citizens; providing information that will bring together buyers and sellers through the use of advertising; offering entertainment for citizens; and "maintaining its own financial self-sufficiency so as to be free from the pressures of special interests" (Peterson).
The last function is the most pressing issue for media stations today. The news industry is hurting because it was incredibly dependent on advertising for its source of revenue. Now it is losing advertising revenue because more readers are switching to Internet based content.
Now there are multiple dilemmas and potential ethics faux-pas. The first is the news companies can not make as much revenue online as they could in print. Not all of the advertisements can be seen. The advertisers are not willing to pay as much for online ads because the potential viewership of the ads are not as much as a print copy.
The second dilemma is the potential unethical activities that arise when trying to keep as much print advertising as possible. Because the revenue is becoming more and more scarce, and news industries are relying on a steady revenue from print ads, they may be more willing to not print negative articles involving an advertiser. On the opposite side, they may be more willing to print positive articles over a particular advertiser as opposed to using the best company for the story.
These "factions" or organizations that can influence the story written by the reporter, or produced by the news organization prevent the media from fully allowing itself to submit to Social Responsibility Theory for the Press. As Gade says in many class lectures, a reporter must divorce themselves from themselves. It is easy to be influence by outside factors. It is easy to be influenced by your bosses. But when reporter, writing, or producing a story, a reporter must become independent from all factions such as themselves, advertisers, organizations, clubs, and affiliates.
The reporter needs to stick to the six functions of the theory to produce news that allows the citizens to be free and self governing (Kovach). By sticking to the functions, reports can produce accurate, unbiased, verified and transparent news stories that will bring more readers to their content. The technology for the industry will change, but the platform for what journalists need to provide the citizens will not.

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