The role of a journalist represents one of the most demanding occupations in today’s world. The news cycle is moving at warp speeds, and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook deliver live news 24/7. Nowadays, all a person needs to spread breaking news is a smartphone and Wi-Fi connection. The emergence of public journalism and citizen reports is putting professional journalists out of work. To keep up, they must report news quickly and provide original content in a unique manner. They face this arduous task whilst simultaneously following various ethical codes. Here are two of the many ethical issues journalists face:
Reporting vs. Commentary
Journalists report the news to their audience. However, there are millions of Americans with Journalism degrees that can do the same thing. One trait that separates some journalists from others is the ability to comment on the news at hand.
There are some shows that embrace commentary and debate, objective or otherwise. One of those television shows, First Take, came under fire a few years ago. Co-host Stephen A. Smith made controversial comments while discussing former NFL running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident. It was a mistake that damaged his reputation to Americans everywhere, not just the sports fans that watch his show. People still bring up those remarks in criticism of Smith today, regardless of his seemingly sincere apology:
Once a journalist violates an ethics code, they likely won’t gain their trust or respect back.
Another example of ethical codes being violated happened in the New York Times…
How Much Info is Too Much?
Darren Wilson, the Missouri police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014, married a fellow officer, Barbara Spalding, a few months later. The New York Times published an article about the wedding. It was rather detailed, describing who his wife was, and how they obtained a marriage license.
Here’s where the highly respected newspaper crossed the line:
The original article also showed a picture of the Wilsons’ marriage license and even provided their address later in the story. Most likely, the Times reporters were simply aiming to give the public as much information as possible. They just went too far. His privacy should have been respected, and backlash ensued because it wasn’t.
A journalist’s work is becoming increasingly harder. Hopefully, that creates an opportunity for the cream to rise to the top, not a chance for journalists to violate their own ethical code.