Ethical Dilemma

Anyone can be a publisher, but is that okay? Don’t get me wrong I love the fact that people can share their views and ideas with each other online, but blogs are becoming news. Readers are starting to take what they read in blogs as fact, and most of the time, it’s not.

Many online sources are not even credible, and even if they have been some form of fact-checked, the information is not well-rounded. Most of these articles come from print sources, they rarely use primary sources. As stated by Gary Kamia, “Observation is the building block of not just journalism, but of all human knowledge.” We NEED primary sources, and we need more then one person reporting on them. How else can we get a well-rounded, educated opinion? I am a very out-spoken person and I am not saying people shouldn’t share their beliefs, but opinions should be left for the opinion section, and news should be objective. Provide all sides of the story, and let the public make up there own minds. I’m not saying death to blogs, but lines must be drawn. The SPJ Code of Ethics should apply to any, and all, online journalism. Including blogs.

Since our last class I keep picturing the girl fight video that we watched and asking myself the same question, Is it journalism? According to Dan LaFave, “If someone didn’t know something and they’re interested in it, and you bridge that gap, that’s journalism.” I have to agree with LaFave on this one. Journalists are supposed to report on what’s happened. So if the story is true, and you report on it and it gets published, that’s technically journalism. I think instead we need to ask ourselves what kind of journalism this is. Are these really the kinds of things we want to take seriously?

Then again, we’ve created an entire industry on getting off of other people’s humiliation. There’s no question, embarrassment sells big. And news mediums need the money.  Videos are flashy. And they are easy. I love to read books, but I hate reading long articles/blogs online. I love Reddit, I go on it everyday. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out. But I will admit, I won’t click on titles that are more than a few lines long. If a link takes me to a long article, I’ll skim or read the first few paragraphs. If a video takes too long to download, I’ll just hit the back button and move on to the next post. As Huber said in class, “Who reads words anymore?”

Most of the people who viewed the girl fight post, only looked at the headline and watched the video. Hardly anyone read the actual content of the article. They did not get the context or relevance of the story. I think we need to decide what kind of journalism is truly important, and then actually read that news thoroughly and objectively, so we can form our own well-informed opinions.

The Shirley Sherrod story shows what can happen when videos/news is taken out of context. Sherrod was labeled as a racist because of a statement she made when she was giving a speech. The NAACP refused to back her and she felt compelled to quit her job.

However, the statement she made was taken completely out of context. The woman was referring to a white family whose farm, as it turns out, she helped save. The NAACP apologized to her, and offered her her job back, but it was to late. Sherrod refused to return to an organization that had turned their backs in her time of need.

Our job as journalists is to tell the whole story. Which was clearly not done in this situation. We are too quick to judge.

According to William Saleton, Andrew Breitbart, the “journalist” who posted the clip, didn’t care about getting the full story, he just cared about the political struggle between the Tea Party and the NAACP. He only posted the story to embarrass the NAACP. So were brought right back to embarrassment. Why do we love humiliating people so much? It’s one thing to post a girl fight, but to post an extremely slanted video that causes someone to lose their job? That is not jounalism and it is not ethical. Seek the truth and report it fully. Breitbart did the complete opposite. That is not journalism.

So yes, the SPJ Code of Ethics should apply to online journalism the same as it does print. From seeking the whole truth and remaining objective to accepting gifts.

Would I take those damn Journey tickets? No. Because I hate Journey. But if it was a band that I liked? I’m not sure. I want to say that that it’s okay to accept gifts and freebies to an extent, because I know people in other professions do it, but that there should be a line somewhere. Like a free drink or comped lunch is okay, but nothing bigger than that. But concert tickets are more expensive than a lunch, so where do you draw the line. That’s when I have to swing to the other side and say no gifts, no matter the size, should be accepted.

Personally I have to agree with Mr. LaFave again. You should be able to accept freebies as long as it doesn’t affect your work. A restaurant can comp your meal for you, but if it sucks, you report that it sucks. But let’s admit it, that would be chaos. If you smudge that line, someone somewhere down the road is going to cross it. So the line must be bold-faced and absolute.

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One Response to Ethical Dilemma

  1. Pingback: Ethics Dilemma | Topics in Journalism: Social Media

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