Monday, November 9, 2009

Professional Values: Journalists' Last Defense Against Falsehood

As the question arises this week to ask if journalism is a profession, I can’t help but think that professional values are going to be more important for our generation of journalists then ever before. During the digital age of media, journalists are competing not only with one another, but also with their readers in the form of citizen journalism. Journalists were considered so based on a byline on the front page. Having their name in print next to a story was proof that they had not only written the article to follow, but that a news organization had accepted these facts and details of an event as news. It simply took publication in a newspaper to convince readers that a journalist was he. But with a mixture of so-called professional journalists, citizen journalists, entertainment and commentary publication is no longer a form of stamping a journalist as such. “Citizen media have no obligation to embrace or exercise standards of journalistic ethics and professionalism,” (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2007).
News was once limited to those who could afford to print a newspaper and their employees. Today with the invention of the Internet and its contents such as blogs and social networking news is no longer a profession by limited access, but must be separated by ideals and values, (Gade & Lowrey, 2010). It is no longer a contest won by money. “The challenge for journalists and news media generally in a digital marketplace crowded with content providers and aggregators is how to make their product standout and attract attention,” (Gade et al., 2010). This “duality of missions,” providing the news and gaining the largest audience, is forcing news to suffer for business purposes creating a more entertaining version of news, or infotainment, above providing the truth and facts that most critically supplement democracy and informed citizens.
“News has become an abundant commodity, easily aggregated (often by non-journalism entities), and sent to or shared with online audiences for free, diluting the value of news,” (Gade et al., 2010). So it is during the age of digital media, when the values of journalism and news have become not only important for the serving of democracy and an informed public, but they have become the only weapons that journalists and news organizations have left to fight for the trust of the citizens. After decades of losing the trust of citizens (Gade et al., 2010), journalists must hold professional values such as truth, public service, objectivity, independence and fairness closer than ever (Kovach et al., 2007). These values are what separate us, the journalists, from those who are polluting the media, often citizen journalists or commentators, particularly online, with falsehood, biases, marketing schemes and subjective commentary.


  1. Whitney,

    Your blog makes a lot of good points on what journalism is becoming. I guess here is my thought on professional values in journalism.

    As I look from my eyes and see the profession of journalism, I am skeptical. Although the news is becoming faster and more accessible via the Interent, I am scared for the future of journalists professional values. I feel that journalists are so concerned with keeping up with the reporter/news station across the street that they are willing to sacrafice news for just what everyone else is reporting on, so they can just stay on the same track the same.

    This feeling of mine goes back to when we discussed the diminishing role of the watchdog journalists. If one is going to settle for the norm, then how will we ever get back to investigative reporting and service to the common man. This is a lack of professional values and I think that it will continue to plague the profession in the future until settling for stories and being repetitive ceases.

    This is not a criticism on your blog, because I agree with much of what you had to say and you make great points. I just feel that the professional values that are necessary to be a good journalists are lacking in today's world of journalism.

  2. I couldn't agree with your blog more.

    On the subject of citizen based journalism, it doesn't make me fearful about the state of journalism. I don't despise it either. I am in fact quite happy and proud that finally, a public forum has been established for citizens to voice there opinion. Isn't what we wanted anyway? And although it's not the ideal way journalists would have liked it to turn out it's one nonetheless. I do not see citizen based journalism as competition. I think it's absolutely inspiring that the profession of journalists has inspired in people the will to seek truth for themselves, to be active consumers. And even thinking about citizen based journalists in a competition perspective, you compete with the best to be the best. This is one way journalists can gain respect as journalists. It shows knowledge of profession by accepting and conquering the challenge, not running from it saying "this is not what we intended".

  3. I also agree with your blog. I think that not only journalistic values that we are taught but, more importantly, the intent behind what we do is what will make the difference in the coming years. So many bloggers have a clear bias or agenda.

    I am like Crys and citizen based journalism doesn't scare me or make me fear having a job-someone has to be reporting the facts that often bloggers base their posts upon. I think that this is enhanced communication between reader and writer will help with credibility-holding journalists accountable-as well as help with a greater marketplace of ideas. Often when I have written stories, the readers have asked me questions to help with angles that I would never have even thought of.

  4. Good blog. I agree. Journalism is and has the opportunity to go in several different directions at this point. You were right to write about how journalism is changing in this day and age full of citizen journalists and news aggregators. It is exactly one of the ways we can improve our craft by improving the product, or the fruits of our reporting labor. I have heard and read several texts and articles saying how our product needs to become more specialized, almost super-local, stories in their immediate proximity. But in order to facilitate that kind of coverage, you need the manpower to support such an endeavor. Naturally, we've been told and as we have read, the industry doens't have enough money to support such an idea, but it's an idea. A better quality product attracts more audience members, after all. Perhaps the answer lies in figuring out how to generate financial rewards online, which seem to be the Holy Grail idea at the moment. I only hope we discover how to make better products and figure out how to use our professional values to help develop our own unique ideas of a better product for the audience, and then combine our respective findings, creating that much better of a product.