“The day-to-day, paragraph-by-paragraph choices are important ethical matters because they go together to influence the picture of the world that the audience takes from news stories, features, analyses, and commentaries.” (Craig 187)
Ethics, while being an important aspect in everyday life, are especially important when it comes to the world of journalism. While everyone’s sense of ethics differs, it is important to have a set of ethics to guide one’s thought process and decision making.
As we discussed in class, a person’s ethics come from one of two places, theology or philosophy. So, there are starting points when trying to make important ethical decisions.
While there are two considerably different starting points, there are ideas and devices that should be universally accepted and practiced.
In their book the “Elements of Journalism,” Kovach and Rosenstiel suggest that no matter where the beliefs and ethics come from it is important for journalist to exercise their own conscience when out in the professional world. (Kovach 231)
In their code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists agrees with those ideas. The part of the code that stuck out to me simply said that journalists need to, “Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.”
To me, these are very important ideals. If journalists are simply doing what they are told by their superiors, the quality of journalism will suffer. If reporters are forced to report, write, and investigate issues they truly do not believe in, the information the public will get will be distorted and perhaps incorrect.
Fortunately, journalists have certain tricks and tools they can use to help guide them when trying to make these difficult ethical decisions.
In Craig’s reading, he lays out six different writing techniques to aid journalists in their ethical battles.
Of these six issues, the two that I found to be the most important were the techniques involving word choice and labeling and interpretation and analysis.
Word choice and labeling are two things that every journalist struggle with at one point or another. In certain instances and with certain stories, the word choice can change the entire meaning of a story. Word choice and labeling are what determines the tone and slant in articles. Keeping an eye on your word choice could be the simplest way to watch your ethics.
For the public to keep their trust in journalists, journalists need be careful to differentiate between reporting the news and interpretive pieces.
The SPJ Code of Ethics says that journalists need to, “Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”
The public uses journalists and their reporting to make decisions on important issues that affect not only their lives, but the lives of countless others. If a citizen is using a mislabeled piece to decide on whatever the pressing issue is at the time, the journalist’s ethics can be questioned and in this business, that could spell the end of a career.